MAKING LARGE DOVETAILS IN CASEWORK CORNERS

          While there are, no doubt, other ways to accomplish this magnificent feat with other woodworking tools, I am going to confine my remarks to the use of the Keller Model 2401 Pro Series Dovetail Jig. Keller has other dovetail jig models available but this one seems best to me when considering both function and cost.

LARGE DOVETAILS IN CASEWORK CORNERS


         
This will not be a long article because the operation of this large dovetail jig is elegantly simple, especially when compared to competitive woodworking tools. The complete Keller Dovetail Jig kit consists of two, large aluminum templates, one for the pins and the other for the tails. It also includes two router bits, one for the pins and the other for the tails. These bits have ball bearing tracking collars mounted between the cutter and the bit shaft. The collar tracks around the dovetail template while the bit is cutting into the end grain of the workpiece.

          Each template is screwed onto a piece of wood at right angle to the template. This wood is clamped to the one side of the workpiece while the dovetail or pin template rests on the end grain. The only adjustments relate to proper left/right placement of the template along the edge of the workpiece and setting the depth of cut on the router.

           Complete instructions come with the Keller Dovetail Jig kit and an instructional video is also available from Keller and its distributors. The width of each dovetail jig template is 24 (a 16 model is available) but the length of cut is not limited to those dimensions. You simply cut all the dovetails on the template and then re-align the template so that the first position on the template is now lined up with the last dovetail (or pin) cut during the initial pass. Theoretically, you could cut dovetails all the way to the moon although no one has tried this yet.

          You can save some money by ordering the 16 model but you will have to re-align the dovetail and pin templates more often for wide workpieces. With the standard (larger) dovetail and straight bits that are included, you may cut dovetails in panels that are from 5/8 to 1 thick. A smaller dovetail bit set is available (at extra cost). With the smaller dovetail bits, you may cut dovetails into 3/8 to ¾ material. Normal pin spacing is 1¾ center to center. The dovetail angle is 7 degrees. A 1½ HP router or larger is required and the router collet can be either 3/8 or ½. One-half inch is preferable. A Pro Clamp Kit is available at extra cost for production work and is especially useful for making drawers.

If you want large dovetails in thicker stock, you might want to consider Kellers Model 3600 Dovetail Jig. These 36 wide dovetail templates will handle thicknesses from ½ to 1 ¼ thick. The standard dovetail bit set works with wood up to 1 thick. The optional small dovetail bit set is for wood thicknesses from ½ to ¾. The optional large dovetail bit set is for stock 7/8 to 1¼ thick.

BUILD YOUR OWN MITER SAW TABLE

          A miter saw can be used in a woodworking shop as a permanently installed tool or on the job site as a portable or semi-portable tool. I will discuss the construction of saw tables appropriate to both types of installations because without a miter saw table, you miter saw will be difficult or impossible to use.

MITER SAW TABLE

           The purpose of a miter saw table is two-fold: (1) to elevate the saw to a comfortable working height for the operator and (2) to provide a surface to the left and/or right of the saw for the extension of the fence and to provide support for long materials while being cut. If you have ever tried to cut a 45-degree miter at one end of a 2x6x12, you know why a saw table or roller stand is absolutely required.

          Very often, miter saws are used to make repetitive cuts of the same length. Some sort of saw stop comes in handy and greatly speeds production time for this sort of application. A saw stop must mount to something on the miter saw table to hold it in place, usually the fence. You can make your own miter saw table fence out of a very straight piece of wood or metal or you can do as I did and purchase a commercially available movable stop that slides along an aluminum track that includes a stick-on measuring tape.

PERMANENT MITER SAW TABLE FOR SHOP USE

          Since I buy lumber in lengths up to 14 feet long, I decided to build a very long miter saw table in my woodworking shop. You may not have the physical space for this in your woodworking shop so you will have to reduce my measurements accordingly. The longer you can build it, the better off it will be for you but any length of miter saw table is better than no miter saw table at all. My miter saw table measures 8 Feet to the left of the saw blade and another 8 feet to the right of the saw blade. This way, I can support the full length of a sheet of plywood on either side and I can cut lumber as long as 16 feet.

          The table is constructed over 2×4 framing and contains multiple storage drawers below the table which I use to store small tools and supplies. If you prefer, the space underneath the miter saw table can be left open for shelf space or lumber storage. I suggest that the top surface be ¾ Melamine or Formica over ¾ particle board. If you can use the entire 4-foot width of the Melamine or particle board, by all means do so, especially if your miter saw is of the sliding compound miter type.  As for overall table height, I would suggest that you build the miter saw table so that the top of the table comes to your belt line when standing. This will give you a comfortable working height and still allow you to bend over the table.

          There should be a gap cut through the miter saw table top in the area where the saw is to be mounted. This gap must be exactly as wide as the top of your miter saw and must be open to the front of the table. The gap should close behind the top of the miter saw. The saw must be mounted in this gap so that the top of the miter saw table is flush with the top of the saw table. The miter handle must be free to move its full travel in both directions.

          Anticipate the need for this gap as you are framing the underside of your miter saw table because you will need to construct a shelf underneath to support the weight of the miter saw. You might want to make this shelf adjustable in micro increments so that you can get the top of the saw platform exactly flush to the top of the miter saw table. You can do this with lag screws with washers in sliding slots through the shelf sub-structure and into the table framing. Slightly loosen the lags and tap the table up or down with a rubber hammer before tightening the lags fully. Use a long straightedge in all directions to make sure that the miter saw and the miter saw table are flush with each other. Mount the miter saw securely to the shelf using lag screws.

          Once the miter saw is mounted, you can begin to construct the fence or fences. A simple, inexpensive fence can be constructed using 1×4 or 1×6 clear fir boards. These boards should be hand selected for straightness and jointed on one edge. One board will be the actual fence and the other will keep it straight from behind. The fence sits with its jointed edge on the table top and the back-up board lies flat on the table top, behind the fence, with its jointed edge joined to the bottom of the fence.

          Before joining the two boards together, slotted holes should be cut into the back-up board for the purpose of mounting and adjusting the fence position on the table top with reference to the fence on the miter saw. These slots should be slightly wider than the shaft diameter of the lag screws you intend to use to mount the fence to the table. Cut a few equally spaced slots in the back-up board perpendicular (at right angle) to the fence. A 2×4 joist should be located under the table top, centered underneath the slots in the back-up board. This will give the lag screws something solid to bite into.

          Before mounting the fence or fences to the miter saw table top, draw a pencil or chalk line where the front of the fence is to be positioned. Take a long straightedge, lay it flat on the miter saws metal table and push one edge of it long the miter saws metal fence. Keeping it in this position, draw a pencil line along the table top, out as far as possible. Repeat on the opposite side of the saw if you have tables on both sides of the saw. Extend this pencil line as far as possible.

          Place the fence along the pencil line with the end of the wooden fence almost touching the end of miter saws metal fence. (Leave a 1/16 gap between the wooden fence and the metal fence.) Drill appropriately sized holes for the lag screws through the miter saw table top and into the 2×4 joist underneath the miter saw table top (one for each slot). Screw the fence to the miter saw table loosely so that it can be adjusted. Use the long straight edge on the miter saws table and on the front of the fence to align the wooden fence perfectly and then screw it down tightly. Repeat for the other side of the miter saw table if there is one.

          For the left fence, place a “right to left” reading stick-on measuring tape along the top of the fence. For the right fence, place a “left to right” reading stick-on measuring tape along the top of that fence. Before sticking down, the tapes must be aligned perfectly. The left tape is measuring the distance from the left side of the saw blade and the right tape is measuring the distance from the right side of the saw blade. With a simple wooden fence like this, you can use wooden stop blocks clamped to the fence with C-clamps for repetitive cuts.

          A slightly more expensive and far better alternative is to use a metal track or tracks with a flip-up stop and measuring tape built in. Such a device is manufactured by Kreg Tools and is available in 4-foot track lengths that can be butted together to make longer lengths. My table requires four 4-foot tracks, two for each side of the saw. The track is mounted to the top of the wooden fence you just made. You will have to adjust the height of the wooden fence (2 ¼+ above the table top) so that the bottom of the flip-up stop clears the table by about 1/16 in the down position.

          The nice thing about the flip-up stop is that it can be flipped up out of the way without loosing its measurement setting along the measuring tape. If you were making repetitive cuts and you needed to stop to use the saw momentarily for a different kind of cut, you could resume your repetitive cutting immediately without losing any accuracy.

PORTABLE TABLE FOR JOBSITE USE

          A jobsite table is usually made with the miter saw mounted to the extreme right end of the table. I have found that most miter saw manufacturers make their metal table surfaces so that they are 3 ½ above the table on which the saw is resting. A very straight, milled 4×4 (3 ½ x 3 ½) can be mounted onto the table top, almost abutting the left side of the metal table of the saw. The 4×4 should extend out the full length of the supporting table to the left and be mounted to the supporting table.

          A fence can be attached to the back side of the 4×4. Use a 1×6 or 1×8 clear fir board for this purpose. As in the permanent table above, the front of the fence must align perfectly with the miter saws metal fence. If a wider support surface is needed, a second 4×4 can be mounted directly in front of the one with the fence attached to it.

          A Kreg Trak system with a flip-up stop can also be used on this portable table. Just make sure the wooden fence is ripped to the proper height to allow the flip-up stop to clear the table by 1/16. (Fence is 2 ¼ + above the top of the 4×4.)

          As for the support table, I have used a plastic fold-up table from Costco. They come in various sizes to suit your particular need. Or, you can make your own table out of 2 x 4s and ¾ plywood. Design it so that the legs can fold up for transportation and storage.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN ROUTER TABLE

In this article, we will be looking at the various ways you could use your woodcraft skills to build your own router table from scratch or by using commercially available parts from certain woodcraft suppliers. We will also show you complete pre-manufactured tables from Rockler, Bench Dog, Bosch and Porter Cable as an alternative to the DIY approach.

ROUTER TABLE

A simple router table can be constructed with a base made from 2 x 3 or 2 x 4 lumber screwed together. You will probably want to have 4 legs, 3 cross bars and a 4-sided apron at the top. The front of your table should be left open but you might want to consider a shelf to store router bits and other related parts. The top can be made out of plastic laminate over ¾ particle board, extending
beyond the outside dimensions of the apron and legs on all sides. You can mount casters on the bottoms of the legs if you want to roll the table around your shop.

While it would be nice if you could just make a hole in a piece of ¾ laminated particle board and attach the router upside down on the underside of your table top, the reality is that the router bit probably would not extend fully above the
3/4″-thick table top and, thus, would not be high enough to make full contact with the workpiece. For this reason, you will either need to purchase a commercially available table insert or you could make one yourself out of aluminum or Plexiglas.

You should trace out the  shape of the table insert at the center of your table top, cut out the table top about 3/8 inside of your pencil line, drum sand away the saw cuts to ¼ inside the pencil line and then rout a ¼ rabbet into the table top around the hole at a depth slightly deeper or equal to the router table insert. The insert should have a hole in its center the same size as the large center hole in the original router base plate. The insert must be screwed down and must fit snugly into the rabbet you routed. The table insert should be no thicker than the
thickness of the original router base. You should use 2 small flat head wood screws, diagonally opposite each other that are countersunk into the insert so that they do not protrude above it. These will be used to keep the insert from moving around and becoming dislodged and will screw into the wood beneath your rabbet cut. You will, of course, need to counter sink the router mounting holes from above, as well. If you decide to purchase a table insert from a commercial source like Rockler, the holes and countersinks will probably already have been drilled into it. If you purchase a commercially available table
top from Rockler, you will not have to cut and rout out a place for the table insert.

The final step in this do-it-yourself woodcraft project is to create a fence. A simple router table fence design would have two pieces of 1 x 3, flat , straight, clear, smooth wood screwed together at a right angle along their long edges. You will then need to cut a slot partway through both pieces that will allow your largest router bit to retreat all the way into the fence, The fence should be the same length as the table top and can be attached to the table top with a C-clamp on each end. If you are using ball bearing bits, you wont really need the fence. If you are using straight cutters, the fence must be built in two, adjustable parts so that the outfeed fence can be set inwards (but parallel to) of the infeed fence to compensate for the thickness of the material that has just been removed by the bit. The router table is not alone among woodworking tools that work this way. Think of a jointer table turned on its side. A jointers outfeed table is always set at the extreme height of the cutters while the infeed table is set below the height of the cutters. How much below determines how much material will be
removed in each pass. A router table fence is no different. If this seems too complicated, commerical router table fences are available, ranging in price
from about 80 to about 120 dollars.

OK, so you can add a router table to the woodworking tools in your workshop and use your woodcraft talents to build one on the cheap. But maybe, just
maybe, you might want to skip all or part of that by using commercially available parts. Lets look and see whats available, from the bottom up. Rockler/Bench Dog, CPO Porter Cable and CPO Bosch are the best woodworking suppliers for parts and/or complete router tables. Here are some that are available that you may want to consider. Prices were current when this article was written.

A router lift is a time-saving, effort-reducing thing to have mounted into your router table. It raises the entire router and router bit up and down through the top surface of the table. With it, you can make minute height adjustments carefully and accurately.

You can (1) build your own router table from scratch, using the instructions above, (2) build your own but incorporate some of the router table parts and accessories listed above or (3) build or buy the whole router table out of the parts listed above. It depends on your budget and how much time you have available to build your own woodworking tools. I’m sure you’ll figure it out and the final product will be just what you need. I hope this article has been helpful.

One piece of advice, though. If you live in a damp climate, particle board table tops will swell and distort making good routs impossible. If you bang things into the corners or sides of a particle board router table top, you will also distort the flatness of the table top.  A phenolic router table top is much better and cast iron is best, if you can afford it.

HARDWOOD GLUE-UPS

          Mating hardwood boards together into panels is the beginning of most fine woodcraft projects. This is hardly a random process and there can be a steep price to pay later for failing to do everything correctly at this point. It’s like building a beautiful house on a poor foundation: It does not matter how much care and skill goes into the house itself, if what’s holding it off the ground suffers from inferior workmanship.

HARDWOOD GLUE-UPS

          There are several steps to consider in the process of edge-gluing lumber including (1) lumber selection, (2) cutting lumber to rough length, (3) ripping boards straight, (4) use of the jointer, (5) grain matching, (6) use of a biscuit joiner, (7)edge gluing, (8)using wood clamps and (9) thickness sanding. Just how you go about these steps depends on the condition of the lumber, the capacity of your machinery and the final size of the glue-up.

LUMBER SELECTION

          If at all possible, try to have all boards in the glue-up out of the same tree. If that is not possible, select lumber that is of similar color and grain pattern. The ideal glue-up looks like one, extremely wide board with the glue joints barely visible to the naked eye. Since this only an ideal, I try to get as close to it as possible.

          Another, less-important goal would be to have all boards in the glue-up of the same approximate width. I am not suggesting ripping the wider boards down to match the narrowest board as this would be a terrible waste of expensive lumber. I do suggest, however, ripping extremely wide boards in two to minimize the possibility of cupping due to changes in humidity after delivery.

          Excellent final results in your woodcraft will be based in part on how much attention you give to grain selection and matching. Straight or ribbon grain makes the best homogeneous final appearance while wavy or swirly grain makes for an interesting but more difficult grain matching process. Swirly grain will require orientation of the individual boards to minimize the number of places that the grain line suddenly stops at the glue line rather than appearing to continue into another swirl in the adjacent board. This orientation is highly subjective yet very important.

CROSS-CUTTING TO ROUGH LENGTH

          I always rough-cut my lumber into lengths an inch longer than the length of the final product. This allows the entire glue-up to be neatly trimmed to size after the glue is dry. It also makes the ripping and jointing process a lot easier as I will explain below. The same is true for the width of the glue up: Make sure it is at least an inch wider than the final product will be after trimming.

RIPPING

          Kiln or air-dried lumber often decides to bow into a curve as it dries and this must be corrected before a glue-up can be accomplished. If my finished glue-up is only 3 feet long and it is coming out of a 14-foot bowed or curved board, it will be far easier and economical to get the curve and/or bow out of the 3-foot pieces than it would to remove the curve from the entire 14-foot board before cross cutting. This is one reason that you should always do your rough cross-cutting before ripping and jointing. Another reason is that a 14-foot, 2 thick x 12 wide board is pretty difficult to control on a jointer or table saw.

          If there is a bow in one or more of your rough-cut pieces, those pieces should first have the curved edges ripped off on the table saw. The concave side of the board should always be towards the table saw fence. Measure from the fence out to the outside of the end of the board that is nearest the fence and set the fence to cut this width. Once you have trimmed off the convex side of the board, flip it over side-to-side and find the point where the outer edge of the board is closest to the fence (somewhere near the middle) and rip the board to that width. When all boards have been ripped straight, take them to the jointer.

JOINTING

          The process at the jointer should now be fairly easy in that the boards have been ripped straight. Take shallow depth jointer cuts to minimize the possibility of tear-out. In loose-grained lumber with a lot of swirls on the face side, tear-out on the jointer is sometimes unavoidable. If this happens, try running the board over the jointer head in the opposite direction. If the jointer tear-outs persist, you will have no other option than to rip the jointer tear-outs away on the table saw. You will then have a sawn edge in your glue-up. If you have a clean-cutting table saw blade like a recently sharpened Forrest Woodworker II, this should not be much of a problem, especially if you plan on using a biscuit joiner to secure your glue-up. You probably wont be able to tell which glue lines are jointed and which are ripped in the final product.

FINAL GRAIN MATCHING

          Lay out all the boards on your work bench and arrange them for best appearance. Obviously, if one side of the final product will show more than the other in a piece of furniture, then you will generally want to have the best-looking sides all on that side of the glue-up. Examples of this would be table tops and cabinet doors. You also must orient the boards so that the glue-lines are not accentuated, as discussed in the paragraph on lumber selection above. That may require breaking the rule that the best sides of all board be on the same side of the glue-up.

BISCUIT JOINING

          Whenever possible, make sure that you biscuit-join your glue-ups. I say, whenever possible because you will not be able to use a biscuit joiner on very thin lumber. On the other hand, very thin lumber (3/8, for instance) does not usually have enough strength to pop open a joint. So, with very thin lumber, you will simply be using glue without biscuits. With regard to lumber ¾ or thicker, I have seen a number of table tops, cabinet doors and cabinet casings open up along a glue line after delivery. At this point, repairs are difficult or impossible so the extra step of biscuit joining is well worth the minor time and expense. Look on it as major headache insurance! If you dont yet own a biscuit joiner, there are a number of great machines out there including Porter Cable, Lamello and Freud. There are also two good alternatives to using a biscuit jointer: Those are the Festool Domino floating tenon joiner and the Freud Doweling Joiner. Different methods, same result.

          When you have your boards laid out the way you want them in the glue-up, make sure all the ends are flush and the edge joints are touching. Double-check to make sure the glue-up will be about an inch wider than the final product after trimming. With a builders square or a straightedge mark a pencil line in 4 in from each end of the rough glue-up across the grain, crossing all glue lines but not continuing over the side edges of the glue-up. Make a similar pencil line across the grain at the mid-point of the boards. Make additional pencil lines half-way between the other pencil lines until all pencil lines are about 6 apart.

          Mark the boards on one end A,B,C or 1,2,3, etc. so that you can put them back together in the same order and orientation when it is time to glue them up. Put the boards aside and nail, screw or clamp a stop board (scrap) to the bench top, left to right in front of you and about a foot in from the edge of the bench. As you are applying pressure with the biscuit jointer, while making mortises for the biscuits, this stop board will keep the board you are mortising from moving away from you. Make a mortise wherever a pencil line touches a board edge on every board.

GLUE-UP AND CLAMPING

          There are two ways to clamp up a glue-up: horizontally on the bench top and vertically with the first board clamped mortised-edge-up in a woodworking vise on the end or side of the bench. In the case of horizontal glue up, place pipe or bar wood clamps about 2 feet apart on the bench top with the wood clamp handles hanging slightly over the edge of the bench. Pre-adjust the wood clamps to an inch larger opening than they will be when tightened. Place the first board on edge on top of and across the wood clamps with the mortises facing up. Do the same with all the boards, in order. Make sure you have sufficient biscuits for the job ready. A small dispensing glue bottle with sufficient glue for the job should be within easy reach. The type of glue is important: If the glue dries too quickly you will have big problems and if the glue dries too slowly, you will be losing valuable production time. I like to use Franklin Titebond Glue or Franklin Titebond II for outdoor applications. These are aliphatic resin type glues that can be easily cleaned up with water. Ether formula gives a very strong joint and has a reasonable, 45 minute clamping time. Both of these glues are widely available in hardware stores, home improvement centers and woodworking stores.

          Run about a 1/8-thick glue line down the center of the edge of the first board, making sure that the glue drops into every biscuit mortise along the way. Then apply short glue lines on both sides of every mortise. This should result in sufficient glue so that it appears squeezed out of both sides of every glue joint after clamping. Insert a biscuit into each mortise. With 2 lumber you may need an extra glue line for the full length of the joint. There is no such thing as too much glue because you can wipe up the excess with a wet rag. There is, however such a thing as not enough glue and you will recognize that condition when you see that glue is not being squeezed out of the full length of both sides of the glue joint. That is called starving the joint and starved joints often open up later.

          Lay down the first board with the letter or number up and the mortised edge away from you. Apply glue in the same manner to each succeeding board wherever there are mortises and place biscuits in the far edge of each board, except, of course the last board.

          The board ends should be flush and the left clamp should be about 6 in from the end. The right clamp should be about 1-foot six inches in from the right end. This is because you will be placing alternately spaced clamps on the top side of the glue-up so that there is a clamp (top or bottom) about every foot. The top, right clamp will be in about 6 from the right end.

          Once you have all of this in place, start tightening the clamp handles. Clamp all the bottom clamps finger tight, then the top clamps finger tight. Then, go down the row of clamps tightening them fully, bottom, top, bottom, top, etc. With a wet rag, wipe off most of the excess glue. Turn over the entire glue-up and wipe the other side. Look at your watch or clock and add 45 minutes to the time. This will be the minimum clamping time, any time after which you may remove the glue-up from the clamps. Mark this time on the glue-up with a felt pen which will sand off later. If you have multiple glue-ups, you can stand this glue-up against a wall to get it out of the way while it dries.

          If you have been paying attention to the above, then you can figure out how to do a vertical glue-up in a vise which is suitable for smaller glue-ups and is easier to manage. The difference is that when it comes time to apply the glue, you will clamp the first board at its center in the vise with the mortises facing up. Apply the glue and biscuits. Apply glue to the mating edge of the second board and place it in correct orientation on top of the first board, and so on. Place the first clamp 6 in from the end, in front, the second clamp a foot away from the first clamp, in back and so on.

          Once your glue-up is out of the clamps, it is ready to be thickness sanded either in a drum sander or wide-belt sander. If you don’t have either of these machines, don’t worry. Most professional furniture-manufacturing shops in your area will be happy to thickness sand your glue-ups for an hourly rate. You might want to consider buying your own drum sander or wide-belt sander, if you can justify the expense.

          It is best to know the maximum width capacity of the sanding machine you will be using: 48-wide glue-ups will not pass through a 36-wide sander. If you know that you will have this limitation in advance, simply make two, 24 glue-ups and glue those together with biscuits after the thickness sanding is complete. The glue line wont be perfectly even and so it will have to be sanded true with a random orbit sander. Your glue-up should be sanded to at least 150 grit. 220 grit is even better. Trim the glue-up on the table saw to its final dimensions (rip first, crosscut second), rout the edges, if appropriate, and then random orbit sand the final piece to 220 or 320 grit before finishing.

WHO SELLS WHAT

           We know, from personal experience, how frustrating it can be to try find what you are looking for by searching through tool site after tool site for a particular brand or a particular tool or woodworking product. We thought wed save you some time in your search for woodworking tools and woodworking supplies by compiling the following chart. Down the left side, you will see a list of product types and brands and by glancing at the columns to the right, you will be able to see which suppliers carry woodworking tools, woodworking supplies or woodworking brands you are looking for. Not all suppliers carry all products or brands so this chart should make things easier for you.

           On the right column of this page, you will see ad links to all of the suppliers in the chart. Click on any of these links and you will be taken to the supplier of your choice. As an alternative, you may click on any “X” in the chart to be immediately taken to the appropriate supplier. Either way, you will be taken away from this site, PerfectWoodworking.com, so to find us easily, once again, be sure to BOOKMARK THIS PAGE before you go.

You will note that there multiple ad links to CPO. That’s because CPO markets its brands of woodworking tools on individual sites like CPOPowermatic.com or CPOMakita.com so be sure to click on the appropriate CPO ad link for the brand you need.

TABLESAW REVIEWS

QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

JET 10 XACTA SAW, 5HP, 1PH, LEFT-TILT TABLESAW, 50 FENCE

JET 10 XACTA SAW, 5HP, 1PH, LEFT-TILT TABLESAW, 50 FENCE

          This tablesaw has some very nice features to consider including a quick-release riving knife and a storage drawer in the cabinet that is sealed from dust. The saw blade is shrouded for efficient dust collection. The motor and belts of the tablesaw are easily accessed via a hinged motor cover. The cast iron table top has two 11 cast iron extensions to the left and right of the main table top. To the right of the cast iron surface is a wooden table extension which gives this a saw a rip capacity of 50.

          An integrated arbor lock contributes to easy blade changes and operator safety. A poly V-belt drive system maintains positive drive belt traction and quiet operation. The commercial-grade 30 XACTA fence delivers precise, repeatable accuracy. The 5 horsepower motor provides plenty of power and is controlled by an easy-to-reach, rail-mounted magnetic switch for safety. Heavy duty chrome plated hand wheels are a nice touch and the paint is power-coated for a long, chip-resistant life. A miter gauge and independent safety guard are provided. Arbor diameter is 5/8 and arbor speed is 4300 RPM.

GENERAL 650R-T50-M2M 10, 5HP, 1-PH, LEFT-TILT, 50 FENCE

The European-style riving knife on this tablesaw can be removed by simply pulling a pin, when needed for blade changes or dado cuts. Then, it just snaps back into place. The scratch-resistant cabinet is powder-coated for durability. Blade adjustments are easily accomplished via the large, cast iron hand wheels. The arbor rotates on heavy-duty sealed ball bearings. The slotted blade guard and table insert are both made out of aluminum.  A dual V-belt drive system assures low vibration and smooth running. A miter gauge and magnetic motor control switch are provided.

          Arbor diameter is 5/8, maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 3 1/8 and at 45 degrees, its 2 1/8. Maximum rip to the left of the tablesaw blade is 12. Dado maximum capacity is 13/16.  Table size is 28 x 36. Arbor speed is 4000 RPM and shipping weight is 539 Lbs.

POWERMATIC PM 2000 10, 5HP 1PH, LEFT-TILT 50 FENCE

  I have owed a Powermatic table saw for many years and I have only good things to say about it. This is supposed to be an impartial review so Ill try to restrain my enthusiasm and stick to the facts. We are looking at two Powermatic tablesaws in this review, different perhaps in blade size and motor power but never in quality. Ill go over the features of this, the smaller of the two tablesaws, in detail and then, when we get to the larger tablesaw, Ill only point out the differences rather than repeating all the features that the two tablesaws have in common.

          This smaller tablesaw comes in a lot of different packages. The principal variations are motor size, voltage, phase and rip capacity. Some models feature a built-in router table. 3 HP and 5HP motors are available for this 10 tablesaw and they can be had in single or three phase, 230 or 460 volt varieties. We picked a package with a 5HP, single phase motor because this allows you to hook it up just about anywhere and gives you more than enough power for the most laborious of cutting tasks. It has a 50-inch rip capacity as opposed to the smaller 30 models.

          My old Powermatic tablesaw came with a splitter that bolted onto the interior of the saw. The new Powermatic tablesaw models, like this one, feature a detachable riving knife to prevent kickback from binding. It snaps in and out at your convenience. It was a time-consuming task to remove the splitter from my older Powermatic tablesaw and so, once off, it tended to remain off which was trading safety for convenience never a good idea. If I could have just snapped it in an out, I would have used it at all times except when what I was doing could not be done with the riving knife in place. Example: dado cuts.

          This tablesaw has built-in casters that retract into the saw cabinet when you are not rolling the saw around the shop. A push button arbor lock makes blade changing easy. On my older model, I had to jam a stick against the blade while I loosened the arbor nut with a wrench. As always, Powermatic trunnions are a bit over-built to insure long life, smooth operation and accuracy.  The angle indicators on the blade bevel scale are adjustable so that you can be certain of accurate readings. The precision-ground cast-iron table top measures 42 x 30 1/2 with the standard 20 x 30 1/2 cast iron table extension attached. The 4 dust port requires a minimum of 350 CFM of suction from your dust collector.

          Maximum depth of cut is 3 1/8 at 90 degrees and 2 1/8 at 45 degrees of bevel. You can rip a maximum of 13 1/2″ to the left of the blade. The tablesaws net weight is 675 Lbs.

DELTA 36-L352 UNISAW 3 HP 52” BIESEMEYER FENCE

I did not think much of the original Unisaw tablesaw. It was noisy, it vibrated and worst of all it was not that accurate. Delta has finally decided to set things right and I must admit that the new, completely redesigned Unisaw is an improvement. We will be looking at model 36-L352 which has a 3HP motor, a 52 rip capacity and a Biesemeyer fence.

          The new single-cast trunnion virtually eliminates the noise and vibration that plagued the original models. The bevel dial can be adjusted to within a quarter of a degree. Crank wheels are located on the front of the unit.  I like the up-front convenience of the location of the crank wheels. A large blade opening makes changing blades and adjusting the riving knife possible without skinning your knuckles.

          Anti-kickback pawls and guard can be added to the riving knife without tools. The riving knife rises and falls with the saw blade. A push-button arbor lock makes blade changing easy. Convenient storage is located within the unit for tools, etc. Dust collection is accomplished via a sloping cabinet bottom and a single dust port. The Biesemeyer fence works with a hairline and a measuring guide.

          The cast iron table top measures 31 x 40 (with wings attached) and the Biesemeyer extension table adds another 42 inches. Arbor size is 5/8 and blade speed is 4300 RPM. This tablesaw weighs 661 Lbs.

POWERMATIC PM3000 14”, 7.5 HP, 3 PH,  LEFT-TILT, 50” FENCE

The big differences between the PM3000 and the smaller PM 2000 tablesaw reviewed above are 7.5 HP, 3-phase motor as compared to a 5HP single phase motor and, of course a 14 blade instead of a 10 blade. The 10 blade gives you a maximum depth of cut of 3 1/8. The 14 model can cut as deep as 5 1/8. This 2 of increased depth-of-cut comes in handy when ripping large timbers and it can crosscut a 6 x 6 in a single pass. Of course to do all this heavy work, you need a larger motor and this tablesaw provides that with its 7.5 horses.

          It can rip 14 to the left of the blade, slightly more than the smaller model tablesaw. Its table size is 38 x 48 including the standard extension. The saw weighs 750 Lbs.

SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART: TABLESAWS

BladeTiltHPPhTableRipBeltsWeightRivingBladeArborPowderArborRPMMobilePrice
SizeSizeKnifeShroudLock?CoatedSizeBase
Paint?
Jet10″L51n/a50n/an/aYesYesn/aYes5/8″4300n/a$2,350
General10″L5128×36n/an/an/aYesn/an/aYes5/8″n/an/a$3,000
Powermatic10″L5130.5×4250n/a675Yesn/aYesn/a5/8″n/aYes$3,400
Delta10″L3131×4052n/a661Yesn/aYesn/a5/8″4300n/a$3,300
Powermatic14″L7.5338×48503750Yesn/aYesn/a1″n/an/a$4,693

ALL ABOUT TABLE SAWS

          There are many things you will want to consider before purchasing a new tablesaw for your shop. There are three main types of tablesaws: (1) the lightweight, inexpensive and portable contractors tablesaw, (2) the cabinet saw, so-named because it has an enclosed cabinet as opposed to open base and (3) the new breed of so-called Hybrid tablesaws which fill the price gap between contractors tablesaws and cabinet saws. This discussion will be only concern cabinet saws because, in my experience, nothing less will do for a shop that produces fine woodworking. Smaller tablesaws lack both the accuracy and capacity of cabinet saws. The tablesaw is the heart of your shop. You will use it more than any other machine and its accuracy and capacity will determine the quality and size of what you will be able to produce. This is akin to picking someone to marry: Ideally, its for life and you will have to live with your decision for a long time to come. Therefore, rushing into purchasing the first tablesaw you see, without doing your homework, is like a quickie Las Vegas marriage, always a gamble.

          There are many things you should consider before investing your hard-earned dollars in any particular machine. As I have said again and again, the machine you pick should be just slightly more capable than what you will demand of it now or what you imagine you would likely to demand of it in the future. While price is important, affordability should not be the sole determining factor in your purchasing decision. If you cant afford the saw you need, wait until you can. Dont saddle yourself with a tablesaw that may drive you crazy every day of your life. Take a few moments to consider what you really need and which machine will best fill the bill for you.

          Id like to take a minute to talk about the features that you should be looking for in a tablesaw and what these features will mean to you after you unpack and set up your new tablesaw. These features include: motor horsepower, blade size, trunnion construction, tabletop flatness, tabletop size, arbor size and arbor bearings, sawdust extraction, ease of operation including raising, lowering and tilting the blade, tilt of the blade (left or right),  the necessity of a magnetic switch and the importance of its location,  ease of access to the interior of the cabinet,  accuracy and ease of operation of the fence, the  amount of rip space to the right and the left of the blade,  safety features and tablesaw mobility around the shop. In addition to the tablesaw itself, you may want to construct a tablesaw outfeed table around the back of the saw, if space permits. Well talk about that, as well.

MOTOR HORSEPOWER

          Motor horsepower and blade size are closely related. The larger the blade, the more horsepower you will need to cut, at full blade height, through a piece of wood. Too much power is never a problem. Too little power can cause the saw to bind, slow down and even stop in the middle of a cut. This is not good, nor is it safe.

          The smallest motor I would even consider for a 10-inch saw would be 3 horsepower. For a 12 to 14 saw it would be 5HP and for a 14 to 16 saw, Id like 7.5 HP. You will also need to consider if the saw motor is single or three phase. Three phase motors use electricity a bit more efficiently. If you dont have three phase power at your location, however, you will have to buy single phase or purchase and install a phase converter large enough for your saw motor. Most saw motors use 230 or 460 VAC power, so make sure you have the correct voltage available in your shop. Three phase motors can run on 208 to 220 volts or higher, depending on the motor.

THE TRUNNION

          The trunnion is the mechanism inside the table saw cabinet which is responsible for both raising and lowering the blade and tilting the blade for bevel cuts. It is controlled from the outside of the tablesaw by two separate wheels or cranks: one for raising and lowering the blade (usually found on the front of the cabinet) and the other for tilting the blade (either left or right, depending on the saw) which is usually located on the right side of the cabinet.

          The tablesaw trunnion determines the accuracy of your cuts so you want to be sure that it is well built and accurately machined. The saw blade must always be exactly where you need it to be.  Furthermore, the trunnion must be easy to operate. It should not require Superman to raise or tilt the blade. As time goes on, you may find that it is harder to turn the wheels or cranks that operate the tablesaw trunnion. This is usually because of sawdust contamination of the gears and/or lack of lubrication. Some better table saws have ways of eliminating sawdust from the cabinet into an external dust port before it can get into the gears. Other saws come with self-cleaning gear teeth.

TABLE FLATNESS AND SIZE

           One tablesaw manufacturer I know believes in aging its cast iron machine table tops before milling them flat. The tops are cast and then left outside in a bone yard to bend, bow, warp and twist in the sun and rain for a year or so. Then, they are brought inside where all the rust is removed and the table top is ground absolutely flat and polished to sheen. The theory is that the metal needs to settle into a place where all post-casting movement has ceased and that the table should not be ground flat before this is done. Otherwise, the tablesaw table may move out of absolute flatness after it is part of your new tablesaw and that it not at all desirable. Why? Because the flatness of your tablesaw top will determine the accuracy of your cuts. Be sure to check your new tablesaw for table flatness with a straightedge on or before delivery and afterwards from time to time. Lay the rule across the tablesaw table top at all angles and check for daylight under the rule or rocking of the straightedge on the table top.

          The size of the cast iron tablesaw top is also important: the larger the better. When you are sawing large objects, you want as much flat table surface as you need to support the work piece flat, 90 degrees to the blade for accuracy. Larger table size is usually accomplished by attaching cast-iron table wings to the edge of the main tablesaw table. These wings must be as flat as the tablesaw table and the seam they create must be aligned so that the top of the wing is flush to the top of the main table along its entire length.

ARBOR SIZE AND ARBOR BEARINGS

          The tablesaw saw blade is mounted on an arbor with a nut and washer and the arbor is turned by the motor, usually via pulleys and 1 to 3 V-belts. The arbor is mounted into the trunnion inside two or more arbor bearings. These should be sealed from dust for obvious reasons. The size of the arbor determines the size of the hole in the middle of the tablesaw blade. This is usually 5/8 for a 10 blade and 1 or larger for blades larger than that. The strength and alignment of the arbor and the bearings which support it determine the accuracy and smoothness of the table saw. Vibration and noise should be kept to a minimum and the saw blade should be straight in the table from front to back at all elevations and bevel angles.

BLADE TILT

          Most tablesaw trunnions are made to tilt either left or right (but not both) to a maximum of 45 degrees from vertical. If you have a choice, and you usually do, never buy a right-tilt saw for the following reason. A right-tilt saw tilts the blade towards the fence and can pinch a work piece into the fence, causing a jam or, worse, a kickback just as the cut is finishing. Further, on a right-tilt saw, the blade is tilting towards the fence and could cut into and ruin it if the fence were to be inadvertently moved too close to the spinning blade. In a left-tilt tablesaw, the blade tilts away from the fence and instead of pinching the work piece, allows it to rise vertically slightly, if need be.

KICKBACK AND PERSONAL SAFETY

          There is a rule that says, Never stand directly behind a horse or a tablesaw. Sooner or later every tablesaw operator will do something stupid that causes a kickback. If the tabkesaw operator makes it a practice to avoid standing where the kickback will occur behind the blade, he or she will probably avoid the severe injury that can be inflicted by a flying piece of wood striking the face, neck, chest or arms of the woodworker.

          There are many hold-down and anti-kickback devices on the market. Some are good and some are a hazard in themselves. I had a large, metal combination hold-down and anti-kickback device get caught in the saw blade, ripped off the fence to which it was clamped and flung into a plate glass door behind the saw. I heard it go whistling past my right ear. It missed me because I was standing, as always, well to the left of the saw blade.

          Woodworking can be a dangerous business. Always use a push stick or similar device. Fingers are not replaceable. Never try to rip narrow strips next to the fence. Instead, cut them off of the left side of the work piece. In this case, you would stand to the right of the blade. In short, think ahead about the possible complications of what you are about to do, keep your eyes wide open (wearing goggles, of course) and keep your wits about you at all times. And, while Im on the subject of cutting strips off the left side of a work piece, remember that you will have to add the kerf of the saw blade to the final measurement. In other words, assuming that the kerf is 1/8 and the strip to be cut is 1 wide, you would move the fence 1 1/8 to the left before cutting each strip.

          Another important safety device is the magnetic switch. This device protects you after an electrical power failure. If the power fails and you have a regular, mechanical switch, the tablesaw will come back on when the power comes back on. If you were to be near the tablesaw blade at the time, this could be disastrous. A magnetic switch will not allow the tablesaw to start again until you press the “on” button. The location of the switch is also important. It should be right out front where it can be quickly accessed by a hand, foot or knee in the event of an emergency. The “off” button should be wide, red in color and should extend outside of the switch box like a mushroom for fast access.

SAWDUST EXTRACTION

          My ideal would be to never have a speck of dust reach the gears of my tablesaw trunnion and that all sawdust would be sucked away from the tablesaw blade and out of the machine as soon as it was made. I would never need to clean out sawdust from inside the tablesaw cabinet and the tablesaw trunnion would always operate smoothly and easily. While I dont expect to ever see my dream fully realized, there are tablesaws on the market today that closely approach this level of efficiency in sawdust extraction. Some tablesaws shield the blade in a casing underneath the saw table and suck the dust out directly from there. Others slant the floor of the saw cabinet towards a dust collection port. Many just allow the sawdust to accumulate on the floor under the saw until you clean it out. You will always have some cleaning of the interior to do. Perhaps you wont wait until the sawdust has totally encased the trunnion gears packing itself up to the bottom of the table top. You will need to connect the saw to a dust collector through its dust port. The suction of the dust collector should be about 350 CFM for a 10 tablesaw and more for a larger tablesaw.

CABINET ACCESS

            At least one, but preferably two or more access doors should be provided leading into the cabinet of the tablesaw. The one you will use most often will be for cleaning out sawdust from the interior of the tablesaw. Another should give easy access to the tablesaw motor, trunnion and belts for adjustment and repair. Many tablesaws provide a removable access panel instead of a second door. Thats fine for occasional motor, arbor, belt and trunnion access but you will want the sawdust door to open and close easily.

THE FENCE

          Your tablesaw should come with a Biesemeyer or similar type fence included in the purchase price. This type of tablesaw fence locks and aligns itself to a rectangular tube attached to the front of the tablesaw table when you press down on a handle. Tablesaw fence accuracy and ease of operation will be important every time you touch your tablesaw and so a cheap fence is no bargain. The tablesaw fence will probably read measurements along a stick-on measuring tape on the top of the front fence rail tube. You will need to carefully adjust the tablesaw fence for accuracy. Instructions of how to do this should come with the set-up instructions for the tablesaw.

          The tablesaw fence must be aligned so that the front of the blade and the rear of the blade are exactly the same distance from the fence at all settings. Once you have ascertained that the blade and tablesaw fence are parallel to each other, you must cut some test boards to accurately set the tablesaw fence to the scale. Set the tablesaw fence to 2 on the measuring scale. Rip a test board and measure it. Adjust the tablesaw fence to the scale by moving the viewers hairline left or right. Rip more boards until you have exact accuracy. The viewer through which you see the tape should be strong in magnification.

RIP CAPACITY

          Your new saw must have a rip capacity equal or wider than the widest thing you will ever want to rip. Usually, a cabinet saw will have a rip capacity of around either 30 inches or 50 inches. A large rip capacity to the right of the blade will require an extension table to support work wider than the cast iron table. Many times, this extension table is included with the tablesaw or, alternatively, you can easily build your own. The fence must have a tube or rail long enough to achieve the maximum width you want to rip.

          If you consider that a sheet of plywood measures 48 in width, I would think that you might want to opt for a 50-inch rip as opposed to the slightly less expensive 30 rip capacity. You might want to rip off only one inch from the left end of that sheet of plywood and, while doing that, you will want the plywood to be fully supported. You might want to crosscut a sheet of plywood into two 48 pieces. You also should consider the rip space to the left of the blade. Sometimes, you might want to accomplish tasks that require the fence to be put over to the left side of the blade.

TABLESAW MOBILITY

          Some shops are small enough that lack of space requires that all machines be able to roll around on the floor. The theory is that you pull out only the machine you are using at the time. In planning your shop, you should decide if your space requirements will mean that everything has to roll, some machines but not others have to roll or all machines can remain in their own positions permanently. Many cabinet saws offer the optional extra of some sort of mobility device. In the case of a table saw, you dont want it rolling around while you are pushing lumber through it and so the wheels must retract enabling the saw to rest on its cabinet base on the floor.

        Some of the nicer tablesaws have the caster wheels permanently mounted inside the cabinet so they are never seen and are never in the way. A foot pedal controls raising the saw up into the mobility position and then lowering it back down onto the floor. If your tablesaw does not have this feature, after-market mobility bases can be purchased as needed.

BUILDING AN OUTFEED TABLE

          The ideal solution is to have enough shop space so that you will never have to move your tablesaw around at all. In this situation, you can construct an outfeed table to support large work pieces and long lumber as they leave the back edge of the tablesaw table. Ideally, depending on space available, you should build this outfeed table so that it extends eight feet or more in back of the blade. You can use the space underneath the table for lumber storage and/or drawer space. The table can also serve as a work bench for the construction of large cabinets and tables. You can use it for pipe clamp glue-ups and spray painting layout, as well.

          Needless to say, the table must be exactly the same height as the top of the tablesaw table and you may need to extend the slots for the miter gauge into the beginning of the top of the outfeed table using a router with a straight bit, running along a guide board tacked down to the table. If your saw extension table extends 50 inches or so to the right of the blade, so should your outfeed table and it should extend along the entire back edge of the table saw to the left of the blade.

CIRCULAR SAW REVIEWS

CATEGORY ONE:

PLUNGE CIRCULAR SAWS WITH GUIDE RAILS

          QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

DEWALT DC520SK TRACKSAW WITH 59” TRACK

DEWALT DC520SK TRACKSAW WITH 59” TRACK

Accurate as a table saw, portable as a conventional circular saw, and as capable as a panel saw, the Dewalt DC520SK Tracksaw makes perfectly straight, splinter-free cuts in plywood and other sheet materials. Track adjustment is fast and precise and clamps are not needed due to friction strips on the bottom of the track. Just plunge into the cut and push it effortlessly along the 59-long track. The saw has an anti-kickback capability. The blade is 6 1/2 in diameter. An additional 46 track is available for $79.99 additional and two or more tracks can be connected end-to-end with the use of a track connector ($19.99) additional. The 59 track alone will easily cross-cut a 4 foot-wide plywood sheet at 90 degrees. Connect the 46 track and you can rip the entire 8-foot length with a total track length of 105. The track can be tilted in order to make up to 47-degree bevel cuts with your circular saw.

          The edge of the track is the precise location of the cut and this exact proximity of the track to one side of the cut is what prevents the splintering common to most circular saws. The anti-kickback feature allows the circular saw to travel only forward along the track. However, this feature can be turned off at the option of the operator, should a particular plunge cut require backing up the circular saw slightly to the actual start point.

           The circular saw includes a standard 1 1/4″ dust port for connection to a shop vacuum and when this is done, up to 90 percent of the sawdust can be collected from the cutting point. The saw comes with a precision-ground 6 1/2, 40-tooth ATB carbide blade for smooth, precise cuts. Maximum cut depth at 90 degrees is 2 1/8 and 1 5/8 at a 45-degree bevel. The maximum output of this saw is rated at 1300 watts / 12 Amps. The no-load speed range is 1750 to 4000 RPM. The saw weighs 12 Lbs.

FESTOOL TS55 EQ PLUNGE CUT CIRCULAR SAW WITH GUIDE RAIL

This is the smaller of two plunge circular saws made by Festool. This one has a 6 1/4″ blade which allows the circular saw to make 90 degree cuts as deep as 1 15/16 and 45 degree cuts at a depth of  1 7/16. Without the guide rail, the saw can cut as deep as 2 1/8 at 90 degrees. Keep in mind that the saws 20mm arbor may require buying your saw blades from Festool or another foreign manufacturer. The circular saw blade completely retracts into its housing, making plunge cuts into the middle of a sheet of plywood safe and easy. This saw and its big brother the TS75 (below) both use Festools  zero-clearance guide rail which insure absolutely straight, splinter-free cuts on both faces of the sheet stock. Clamping of the rail is not necessary although the rails have the provision for non-interfering clamps if so desired. Special clamps are available at extra cost.  

           The circular saw blade can be locked in the extended position and restricted from turning to make blade changes easy. A spring-loaded riving knife extends and retracts into the housing with the circular saw blade. The splinter guard prevents splintering on both sides of the cut, preserving both the good piece and the waste piece. Alignment cams underneath the saws base plate adjust so that there is zero play between the saw and the track which is guiding it.

           Festools bevel tilt mechanism (that is built into the tracks) keeps the straight edge of the zero-clearance guide rail on the cut line at all times, regardless of the bevel. A 48-tooth circular saw carbide blade is included along with a Plug-it 13-foot power cord, a plastic splinter guard, an FS/2 limit stop and a Systainer case.  Power consumption is 1200 watts / 10 Amps and the circular saw blade speed range is 2000 to 5200 RPM. Saw weight (alone) is 9.92 Lbs.

           A 55 guide rail is included. Other guide rails are not included with this saw but are available at extra cost, as follows:  32 = $65, 42 = $85, 55 = $98, 75 = $175, 106″ = $270, 118 = $300. $197 = $500.

FESTOOL TS75 EQ PLUNGE CUT CIRCULAR SAW WITH GUIDE RAIL

Much of what was said above concerning the smaller Festool TS55 EQ Plunge Circular Saw applies to this larger circular saw model. The differences are mostly in relative size and capacity, so I will talk only about the differences to prevent repetition. This circular saw comes with an 8.25, 36-tooth fine-cut carbide blade. Its motor produces 1600 watts / 13 Amps and the circular saw blade speed ranges from 1350  to 3550  RPM. Bevel cuts can be made from zero to 45 degrees.

           Cutting depth (with the guide rail) is 2 3/4 at 90 degrees and 2 1/8 at 45 degrees. With out the guide rail, the cutting depth is increased to 2 15/16.The arbor size is 30mm, not a standard, American size, so you will probably be roped into buying your blades from Festool or another foreign manufacturer. This bigger circular saw weighs 13.6 Lbs. as opposed to 9.92 Lbs. for the smaller model.

           An on-board kickback stop prevents kickbacks during plunge cuts. A rotating dust port allows better freedom of movement when the circular saw is attached to a vacuum. A triple-bearing motor improves the smoothness of the circular saw when cutting and means longer life for the motor.

           Guides used for this Festool saw are the same as those used for the TS55 EQ circular saw so the prices quoted above apply here as well. A larger, 75 guide rail is included with this larger saw.

MAKITA SP6000K1 6.5-INCH PLUNGE CIRCULAR SAW / GUIDE RAIL

              This circular saw includes a 55 rail and a 6.5, 48-tooth carbide blade. Its motor is rated at 12 amps / 1300 watts and has an electronic soft-start feature for smooth operation. Bevel capacity is -1 to +48 degrees with detents at 22.5 and 45 degrees. Magnesium components contribute to the light, 9.1 Lb. weight of this saw.

          A locking lever aids in blade changing. An included wrench is inserted through a hole to tighten and loosen the arbor nut. An electronic brake contributes to productivity because, with this circular saw, it is not necessary to wait very long for the circular saw blade to cease rotation. A 1 7/16 dust port directs sawdust away from the operator and can be attached to a vacuum cleaner. This circular saw features a built-in depth stop.

          The plunge release lever is conveniently located for ease of operation and the depth adjustment is easy to set because of a large scale. This circular saw has dual front and rear bevel supports for increased rigidity and precision and rubberized handles for comfort.

CATEGORY TWO:

 WORM-DRIVE CIRCULAR SAWS FOR CONSTRUCTION

BOSCH 1677MD 7 1/4” WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW

This worm-drive circular saw has a motor rated at 15 Amps and a top blade speed of 4400 RPM. Its left blade design gives the operator a clear view of the cut line. It has an anti-snag lower guard and a magnesium foot plate for greater strength. The magnesium housing saves on weight. The 1677MD circular saw has a 50 degree bevel capacity and a positive stop at 45 degrees. It also features large adjustment levers and a spindle lock to make blade changes easier. The brushes are easy to service on this circular saw.

           Bosch has included a diamond-shaped arbor for non-slip blade performance. Maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 3/8, at 50 degrees, 1 13/16 and at 45 degrees,  1 15/16. The saw weighs 14 Lbs.

SKIL SHD77M  7 1/4″ MAGNESIUM WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW

The Skilsaw worm drive circular saw used to be the industry standard and had no competition. Even though times have changed and there are now models available from competing manufacturers, the SkilSaw is the saw most woodworkers think of when they hear the words worm drive. This circular saw comes in larger and smaller sizes and in steel as well as light-weight magnesium models. Here, we are looking a 7 1/4, 15 amp, 4600 RPM magnesium saw. The motor on this famous circular saw has been recently up-graded with more power and heat-resistant wiring for longer life. Blade speed is 4600 RPM. A 24-tooth carbide circular saw blade means quick, smooth cuts through 2x4s and an anti-snag lower guard reduces or eliminates annoying hang-ups while making cut-offs. The tough, worm-drive gearing lasts 5 times longer than hypoid gears. Depth of cut at 45 degrees bevel is 1 15/16 and 2/38 at 90 degrees. Saw weight is 14.4 Lbs.

MAKITA 5377MGR MAGNESIUM HYPOID SAW


            This saw is similar in design to a worm-drive saw but uses hypoid steel gears instead of bronze alloy gears to deliver greater power to the saw blade through greater gear surface contact. A sealed gear housing and built-in fan insure better oil bath covering for the gears during use.. The blade-left design allows for improved cut line visibility. Even though this circular saw has a powerful, 15 Amp motor, it weighs only 15 Lbs. Bevel cut range is zero to 50 degrees.

          This circular saw features externally accessible, replaceable brushes and a thick base plate that is chemically treated for rust resistance. Its 7 1/4″, 24-tooth, carbide-tipped circular saw blade is designed to smoothly power through construction lumber.

MILWAUKEE 6477-20 WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW

Milwaukee worm drive citcular saws are known for both power and performance among professional carpenters and woodworkers. The 15 Amp, 4400 RPM motor delivers strong, smooth  power for production efficiency. The shoe is made of composite material that combines strength with a surface that will not easily mar delicate surfaces.  A sight glass lets you know when additional oil is needed for lubrication of the hardened steel worm drive gears. Depth and bevel scales are easy-to-read. Cut line visibility is excellent. A 24-tooth carbide blade comes with the circular saw. The circular saw arbor is 5/8 and the 19 cord is 2-wire, 12 gauge.

          Depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 7/16, at 45 degrees, 1 25/32 and at 50 degrees, 1 9/16. The saw weighs 14.3 Lbs.

RIDGID ZRR3210-1 WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW

          This 15 Amp, 7 1/4 worm drive circular saw has the blade mounted on the left side for clear cut visibility. Bevel capacity is 51.5 degrees and there is a spindle lock to make blade changes easy. The bevel and depth scales have high visibility markings for easy reading. Heavy-duty worm gear construction coupled with a 15 amp motor means greater power and torque for construction use. Magnesium construction is the reason forthis circular saws light weight.

          This circular saw also has over-sized levers for easy operation. A strong aluminum base gives excellent stability. Brushes are easily accessible for easy maintenance. The circular saw arbor is the diamond type for positive no-slip connection to the blade. Maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 3/8, at 45 degrees, 1 ¾ and at 51.5 degrees, 1 9/16.

CATEGORY THREE:

 STANDARD CIRCULAR SAWS

BOSCH CS20 7.25-INCH CIRCULAR SAW

The remarkable thing about this circular saw is its direct connect feature… a simple but elegant solution for frayed and/or lost power cords plaguing some competing models. With direct connect, you simply plug any extension cord right into the circular saw. No other power cord is necessary. The CS20 is rated at 15 Amps and has a blade speed of 5600 RPM. A powerful blower keeps the cut line clearly in view at all times. The upper and lower guards are made out of magnesium for lighter weight without sacrificing strength. A convenient spindle lock aids in blade changes.

MAKITA 5007 MGA MAGNESIUM CIRCULAR SAW

           This saws powerful 2300 Watt motor allows it to cut quickly and efficiently, even on deep cuts. Quick, one-handed adjustments are made using large, rubberized levers. Over-sized setting and ruler markings make adjustments of this circular saw fast and easy.

          The 5007MGA can cut as deep as 2 1/2″ at 90 degrees. Its 56-degree bevel range has positive stops at 22.5 and 45 degrees. Two built-in LED lights illuminate the cut line as a chip blower sends the sawdust flying away. An electronic brake stops the circular saw blade quickly for increased productivity. Blade, rip fence, wrench and tool box are included.

SKIL 5680-01 2.5HP 14 AMP SKILSAW WITH LASER

              Ball bearing motor construction assures smooth running and long life. The power rating of this circular saw is 14 Amps or 2.5 HP.  A single beam laser lets you know where you are with reference to the cut line and an LED light lets you know when the saw is powered . A 24-tooth carbide circular saw blade is included with the saw.  Saw blade speed is 5300 RPM. Depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 7/8 and at 45 degrees, 1 15/16.  Saw weight is 10.6 Lbs.

SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHARTS:  CIRCULAR SAWS

TRACK/PLUNGE SAWS
MakeModelAmpsWattsRPMBladeIncludedDustDepthDepthWeightPricePrice
GuidePort?90 Deg.45 Deg.Recond.
Rail
DeWaltDC520SK1213001750-40006.5″59″1.25″2 1/8″1 5/8″12$519n/a
FestoolTS55 EQ1012002000-52006.25″55″1 7/16″1 15/16″1 7/16″9.92$525n/a
FestoolTS75 EQ1316001350-35508.25″75″1 7/16″2 3/4″2 1/8″13.6$655n/a
MakitaSP6000K11213002000-52006.5″55″1 7/16″2 3/16″1 9/16″n/a$430n/a
WORM-DRIVE/HYPOID SAWS
MakeModelAmpsWattsRPMBladeIncludedDustDepthDepthWeightPricePrice
GuidePort?90 Deg.45 Deg.NewRecond.
Rail
Bosch1677MD15n/a44007 1/4″n/an/a2 3/8″1 15/16″14$190n/a
SkilSHD77M15n/a46007 1/4″n/an/a2 3/8″1 15/1614.4$200n/a
Makita5477NB15n/a45007 1/4″n/an/a2 3/8″1 3/4″13.9$199n/a
Milwaukee6477-2015n/a44007 1/4″n/an/a2 7/16″1 25/32″14.3$190n/a
RidgidZRR3210-115n/a44007 1/4″n/an/a2 3/8″1 3/4″15n/a$120
STANDARD CIRCULAR SAWS
MakeModelAmpsWattsRPMBladeIncludedDustDepthDepthWeightPricePrice
Guide Port?90 Deg.45 Deg.NewRecond.
Rail
BoschCS2015n/a56007 1/4″n/an/a2 7/16″1 7/8″10.4$140n/a
Makita5007MGA15230058007 1/4″n/an/a2 1/2″1 3/4″10.1$180n/a
Skil5680-0114n/a53007 1/4″n/an/a2 7/8″1 15/16″10.6$90n/a

ALL ABOUT CIRCULAR SAWS

          While there are many types and sizes of circular saws on the market, I would like to discuss what I believe to be the three most important circular saw categories. They are: plunge circular saws with guide rails, worm drive or hypoid circular saws for construction use and standard-drive circular saws suitable for both home and construction use. Before I delve into all of that, however, Id like to take a quick look at some circular saw basics.

          A circular saw allows you to take a relatively small tool to a large workpiece and cut it without too much back-breaking labor. In the past, the price for this convenience was inaccuracy because there was no really good way to force a circular saw to cut straight along a pencil line. For rough construction work like roofing and decking, this was no problem. For fine woodworking, however, the circular saw was not the tool of choice. Most woodworkers rely on the table saw to get the long, straight cuts they need and for good reason. The fence on a table saw gives the constant reference point needed for straight cuts.

          Sometimes, however, using a table saw to trim the top of a huge conference table, for instance, turns out to be an impossible task, especially when trying to trim off the ends at 90 degrees to the sides. Thats when a very carefully planned approach using a circular saw seems to deliver the best final result. I would draw a pencil line using a long straightedge exactly where I wanted the cut of the circular saw to go. I would then carefully measure the distance between the inside (or outside) of the circular saw blade and the edge of the foot plate of the saw. The next step would be a second pencil line, parallel to the first one and separated from it by the distance I measured between the inside (or outside) of the saw blade and the edge of the foot plate. I would locate an absolutely straight board (ripped straight on the table saw, if necessary) and clamp this across the table top as a guide along the second pencil line. Then, I could make a pretty straight cut along the first pencil line. I would then repeat this for the other end of the table top.
          In the past few years, this process has become a whole lot easier. There are now several makes and models of plunge circular saws that run along metal guide rails, cutting right next to the edge of the rail without cutting into the rail itself. The guide rails dont even need to be clamped to the surface being cut because they have material underneath that keeps them from sliding around. If you feel more comfortable clamping down the guide rail, this can be done, as well. Its a simple matter to lay the guide with its edge along the cut line and then to take the circular saw and run it down the rail, cutting right next to the lip of the guide.

          Because these saws are all plunge-type circular saws, you can begin and/or end a cut in the middle of a sheet of plywood. You could cut out a window or door opening, for instance, and have it come out clean and square every time. The best thing about using these track saws is the confidence they give you: You KNOW you can do a perfect job, quickly, accurately, over and over again.

          Another kind of circular saw Ive used a lot over the years, mostly for construction, is the worm drive circular saw pioneered by Skil. A framing carpenter needs to be able to cut a lot of lumber all day long. While accuracy is always desirable, it is not as critical to the framer as it would be to a finish carpenter or cabinet maker. Speed is the thing that the framer wants on his side and he (or she) does not want to be saddled with a circular saw that cant cut the mustard, so to speak. He doesnt want his circular saw to bog down in the middle of cutting a 2 x10 joist or have the sole plate hang up every time it goes across the edge of another board. He does not want to have the circular blade slipping around the arbor of the circular saw. What he wants is clean, fast and accurate cuts: In short, power.

          A worm drive circular saw delivers the constant power the framer needs because there is no slack or play anywhere between the powerful motor and the saw teeth that are doing the cutting. The worm gear cuts down on rotational speed and trades that off for increased torque. It is torque, not speed, that powers a circular saw blade through thick, wet wood. A diamond-shaped arbor and correspondingly diamond-shaped hole in the circular saw blade makes it virtually impossible for the blade to rotate around the arbor. Keeping the number of saw teeth down to 18-24 teeth on a 7 1/4″ saw blade also helps speed the cut. The only problem with early Skil worm drive saws was the weight with those large motors and all that gearing inside a steel housing. The solution was to use magnesium instead steel in the construction of the worm drive circular saw wherever possible. The modern magnesium worm drive circular saws weigh only about 14 to 15 pounds which is more than a standard circular saw but manageable in the strong hands of a muscular framer.

          The final category included the kind of saw that most people think of as a “circular saw.” It is lighter than the worm drive circular saws and, for most uses, it’s plenty powerful enough. Some of these saws are now also being made out of magnesium parts and weigh just over 10 Lbs. This makes them easy to use by the average do-it-yourselfer. Did I mention that they are a lot less expensive than the other types?

BAND SAW REVIEWS

          QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

DELTA 28-206 14” BAND SAW

DELTA 28-206 14” BAND SAW

            This, the least expensive saw in our review is a good basic or beginner band saw for a small shop. It has a 1 HP, single phase motor that can be wired to run off either 120 or 240V power. It has an enclosed stand so that your sawdust can be effectively contained in a small area and an easy-to open door for cleaning and maintenance. The 16 x 16 cast iron table tilts 45 degrees right and 3 degrees left for bevel cuts.

          The upper and lower blade guides are equipped with ball bearings to maintain proper band saw blade alignment. The lower blade guides are angled in such a way that they supply support as close as 3/4″ below the table work surface and are equipped with a micrometer adjustment feature for proper alignment. Other features include a 4 dust port, cast iron trunnions for table support, Stock as thick as 6 ¼ thick can be cut (12 1/4 with a height attachment). Two blade speeds are available: 2500 and 3300 FPM. A 3/4″ blade is the widest that can be tracked on this band saw. Band saw weight is 201 Lbs.

JET JWBS14DXPRO 14” BAND SAW

           This small band saw has a built-in 12 resaw capacity. The maximum blade width is 3/4″ and so, realistically, you are not going to have much luck resawing 12 hardwood lumber even though this saw features a high-tension spring design. Nonetheless, the added capacity will come in handy. This machine does surprisingly well resawing 8″-10 wood widths or less.

          A two-speed poly V-belt drive allows for two different blade speeds: 1500 and 3000 FPM. The table measures 15 x 15 and tilts 45 degrees right and 10 degrees left. The motor is 1 1/4 HP, suitable for this saw. A 4 dust collection port is for connection to a dust collector with at least 300 CFM of suction. Minimum saw blade width is 3/8. This band saw weighs 243 Lbs.   

LAGUNA TOOLS LT14 SEL 14 BAND SAW

Band Saws are a specialty for the folks at Laguna Tools who spend their days scratching their heads to find still another improvement for the units they design and sell. Their LT14SE and LT14SEL band saws have given them reason to be proud because these nearly identical machines received the Best Overall award in 2009 in Fine Woodworkings Best of the Best test ratings.

          If a bit on the pricey side, Laguna Tools band saws have always led the pack of competitors for innovation and quality. This European-built saw has a 2 HP Baldor motor for needed power when resawing. IT can slice wafer-thin veneers from a tall block of hardwood. The award-winning Laguna Guides are the reason for this. They are designed to give your Laguna band saw and its blade the best possible tracking and control.

           The difference between the LT14SE model and the LT14SEL model is simply a matter of table height. If you prefer a band saw table that is 35 above the floor, go with the SEL model with an extended frame and a price tag of $1795. Or if you want a 44 working table height on your band saw, you can opt for the SE model at $1750 plus an optional metal stand ($125) = $1875 total. Both the LT14SE or LT14SEL have a maximum blade width of 1 and can use a blade as thin as 1/16. The actual throat is 13 1/4″ and the table size is 15 x 15. This band saw weighs 264 Lbs.

JET JWBS 16B 16” BAND SAW

JET JWBS 18QT 18” BAND SAW

JET JWBS 20QT-5 20” BAND SAW

These three saws are very similar in design except for throat depth, horsepower, resaw capacity and price. The 18QT and 20 QT-5 have a Quick-Tensioning device to speed blade changing and tensioning. The 20 QT-5 model is pictured.

           The 16 model has a 1 1/2 HP motor, the 18 is available with either a 1 3/4 HP or a 3 HP motor and the 20 band saw  gives you a choice between 3 HP and 5 HP. The 16 and 18 models run on either 115 or 230 volts. The 3 HP 18 and both 20 band saws run on 230 volts. All motors on these saws are single phase. Resaw capacities for the three sizes are as follows: 16 band saw= 10 resaw, 18 and 20 band saws = 12 ¼ resaw. Cast iron table sizes are as follows: 16 =  17 x 17, 18 =  19 x 19 and 20 =  21 x 21.

          Common features included a 2-speed, poly V-belt drive (2000 or 3300 FPM), a foot brake, upper and lower ball bearing guides,  cast iron trunnions, locking cabinet doors, a blade tensioning gauge, a T-square rip fence with a resaw post and single-knob tracking. A triangular design provides rigid column stability.  

LAGUNA TOOLS RESAW MASTER 18” BAND SAW

          All of the band saws in this review can resaw but only one of them was specifically designed to be a fully-capable resaw and this is it. Its price reflects its 16 resaw capacity and its 6 HP Baldor motor. It has a high/low resaw fence, geared trunnions and an easy-to use blade tension guide. The best part is the Laguna blade guide system with thumbs screws for precision adjustment and quick control.

          This is the band saw to own above all others if your primary use is resawing and lots of it. It is able to do what it does so well because of overwhelming motor power, a 2 specialized blade and the award-winning Laguna blade guides. It would be a mistake to price-compare this resaw band saw to other 18 band saws that are not specifically designed for resawing. There are good reasons that this resaw band saw costs more, namely: power, accuracy and capacity. It is true that other band saws can do resawing but not this fast and accurately and certainly not with a wood thickness of 16.

          There are other motor options ad varying prices: 4.5 HP, single phase, 3 HP, 3 phase and 7.5 HP 3 phase.  Maximum band saw blade width is 2. The actual band saw throat is 17. Table size is 19 x 25. This band saw weighs 561 Lbs.

GENERAL 90-270 M-1 18” BAND SAW

            This 18 band saw from General has a 3 HP, 200V, single phase motor which is totally enclosed and fan cooled.. Its 18 diameter, 1 1/8 wide wheels turn at 995 RPM. Maximum blade width is 1 and the minimum is 1/4″. Maximum height of cut for resawing is 9 3/8. The table measures 24 x 19 ½.. The table tilts 45 degrees outward (to the right) but does not tilt inward (to the left).

          This band saw has a heavy-duty, one-piece frame which needs no assembly. Blade tension is adjusted with a hand wheel. A tension scale allows you to set the proper tension for each width of blade. Also included with this band saw are a foot brake, a 4 dust port and a magnetic safety on/off switch.

LAGUNA TOOLS LT28 28″ BAND SAW

LAGUNA TOOLS LT32 32″ BAND SAW

LAGUNA TOOLS LT37 37″ BANDSAW

          Laguna Tools largest band saws are industrial machines, if you have a need for that much capacity and power n a band saw and can afford the price tags. These three band saws are similar in design but differ in power and size. They offer more resaw capacity, motor power and throat depth than most other band saws. Pictured is the 32 model. The cast iron table tilt mechanism slides on dovetailed ways. The foot brake shuts the motor power off instantaneously when the ergonomic brake pedal is pressed. Upper and lower doors open quickly and easily, making blade changes a breeze.          

          The L28 model band saw has a 7.5 HP, 3 phase, 220V Baldor motor and can resaw 18 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/8 and maximum is 1 3/4″. The actual throat measures 27. The table measures 28 x 38. Laguna guides are included. Band saw Weight is 1,034 Lbs.

          The L32 model band saw has a 10 HP, 220V, 3 phase Baldor motor and can resaw 20 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/8 and maximum is 1 3/4″. The actual throat measures 30 1/2″. The band saw table measures 28 x 42. Laguna guides are included. Band saw weight is 1135 Lbs.

          The  L37 model band saw has a 15 HP, 220V, 3 phase Baldor motor and can resaw 24 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/4″ and maximum is 2. The actual throat measures 36. The table measures 31 x 50. Laguna guides are included. Band saw weight is 1,610 Lbs.

SIDE-BY SIDE COMPARISON CHART:  BAND SAWS

MakeModelThroatPriceMotorPhaseVoltage
(in.)Size
Delta28-20614$660.0011120/240
JetJWBS-14DXPRO14$900.0011115/230
LagunaLT14 SEL14$1,795.002n/a220
JetJWBS-16B16$1,100.001.51115/230
JetJWBS-18QT18$1,600.0031230
JetJWBS-20QT-520$2,600.0051230
LagunaResaw Master16$4,395.006n/a220
General90-270 M-118$2,400.0031220
LagunaLT2828$6,195.007.53220
LagunaLT3232$7,850.00103220
LagunaLT3737$10,395.00153220

          Any band saw can resaw. The question is: How well and how thick? The first thing you need to decide if resawing on your band saw is an activity in which you are likely to engage frequently, occasionally or never. For those of you who dont know, resawing is the ability to cut thin slices or veneers out of a board standing on its edge on the band saw table, while being guided along a high fence. Where this pays off is when you are trying to get maximum mileage out of an especially fine, beautiful, expensive hardwood board.

          For example, I made a lot of jewelry boxes with 3/8 thick sides. Considering that I had to sand all of the sides flat and smooth, I found that I could barely get 2 slices out of a 1 thick board or 3 slices out of a 1 1/2 board or 4 slices out of a 2 thick board. You need to allow 1/16 kerf waste for most band saw blades plus more if your blade wanders, which all blades do to a certain extent. Then all unevenness has to be sanded away in a drum sander or wide belt sander. In the end, you can’t realistically expect to get two finished 3/8″ box sides out of a board that is only 3/8″+3/8″ +1/6″ = 13/16″ thick. You will need not much less than a full 1″ thickness in your original board. Since most hardwood lumber is sold milled down to 7/8″ for a so-called 1″ board, you are faced with only getting one, 3/8″ slice, not two. On the other hand, most 2″ lumber comes milled down to 1 7/8″, which allows you to bet three 3/8″ pieces out, saving you money.

          The more your band saw blade wanders, the more thickness you will need. The important thing is to minimize this wandering and there are five ways to do this: (1) blade tension (maximum recommended to keep the blade from flexing), (2) blade width (the wider, the better for stiffness), (3) blade type (designed specifically for resawing), (4) motor power (to drive the blade through the wood without bogging down) and (5) blade guides (the more blade control, the better).

          If you plan on doing a lot of resawing, pay close attention to the specifications of band saws you are considering for purchase, in light of what has been said above. If resawing doesnt look like it will play a large part in your future, then you are probably more interested in cutting curves in thinner material. In this case, throat depth of your band saw becomes a very important consideration because, on a small band saw, you will be constantly bumping into the back of the throat and you may not be able to complete the curved cuts you have penciled out.

          Any 14-inch band saw will severely limit the width of cuts you can make to the left of the blade, so consider if this will present a problem for you. If you are planning on just cutting out small parts, fine. On the other hand, if you want to make large parts for furniture, then a small band saw just won’t do. Of course, there is no limitation to the right of the blade, on a 14″ (or any other) band saw, except that you will have to supply auxiliary support for your work piece if it extends very far off the edge of the table. Throat depth is not so much of a problem when you are using the band saw for resawing, although, for resawing, you will need to consider the maximum distance between the table top and the upper blade guide. That measurement determines how wide a board you can resaw on your band saw.

          When shopping for a band saw, dont be fooled into thinking that an 18 band saw will give you a full 18 between the blade and the back of the throat. Band saws are measured by the outside diameter of their wheels. These wheels are mounted inside the cabinet, one above the table and the other, below. Actually, there is an upper cabinet and a lower cabinet connected by a column. The blade travels upwards from the lower (powered) wheel through and inside the column to the upper (idler) wheel before reversing direction and going downwards through the upper blade guide, then the table, then the lower blade guide before returning to the lower wheel.

          Because the column takes up a certain amount of space, an 18 band saw will not normally have a full 18 throat. It will be something less than that, perhaps 17½ (if you are lucky) or even 17. So, if you need a full 18 of clearance, you will need a 20 band saw. Prices climb with throat depth simply because as throat depth increases, the wheels and the cabinets must increase in size accordingly. In short, the whole machine gets bigger.

          Small band saws with small wheels may not be tall enough to sit on the floor like larger ones. With small band saws, you must either mount them on a bench or purchase or build a stand. Usually the stand is included in the price of the smaller saws. Conversely, when working on a very large, industrial band saw, count on the table top being quite high off the floor to accommodate the lower wheel and its cabinet.

          When you order blades for your band saw, do so in quantity. There are few sure things in life but blade breakage is guaranteed. Always have replacement band saw blades on hand so you don’t end up breaking your only blade right in the middle of a project. When you do order blades, you can usually find the best prices online but you will need to allow for delivery time and shipping costs. You can buy blades from the saw manufacturer but it is usually cheaper to purchase them from a vendor who specializes in band saw blades. If you cant find the exact size your band saw uses, you can ordinarily have your blades custom-welded to any length you need.

          There are times when you want a specialized band saw blade for a specific use like resawing. Here, the challenge is to get a reasonably smooth cut but not to have so many teeth that it causes an undue amount of friction, heat and wandering. In a case like that, it may be best to buy directly from the manufacturer of your band saw. Band saw blades designed to cut tight curves are as narrow as 1/8. For most curves, I have found 1/4″ blades to be sufficiently narrow. The narrower the blade, the more likely it will be to break quickly but it can track tighter curves than wider blades. For really tight curves, a scroll saw may be a better tool than a band saw. Resaw blades should always be as wide as your band saw can accommodate.

          There are two basic types of blade guides on band saws: “blocks” and “ball bearing guides”. Blocks can be made out of smooth metal, non-metallic composite or ceramic material. Ball bearing guides are more expensive but are much easier on blades in that there is minimal friction and, therefore, reduced heat. There are side guides in any band saw to restrain the blade from moving left or right and a single block or bearing behind the band saw blade to keep it from moving backward when pressure is applied to the front of the blade by the work piece. After-market ball bearing guides with full installation instructions can be obtained from manufacturers such as Carter. The more expensive band saws come already equipped with ball bearing guides.

          Like other stationary power tools, very large band saws usually have three phase motors. You should not consider purchasing one of these unless you have three phase power available at the place where you will be using the saw. Three phase power is usually only available from the power company in commercial or industrial areas and cannot be found in residential areas. The only way to have three phase power in a home woodworking shop is to use a phase converter that is large enough for the power requirement of your largest three phase motor. If you plan on running more than one three phase motor at a time, you will need a correspondingly larger phase converter. There are two types of phase converters: rotary (looks like a big electric motor) and electronic. Rotary is better if you can find it. Search for phase converters online.

           A two speed band saw is useful if you are planning on cutting metal or very dense hardwoods. Running the band saw on the slow setting will mean that while it will take longer to make cuts, it will reduce heat from friction and extend blade life. Metal cutting band saw blades are widely available for cutting mild steel and non-ferrous metals. Never use a metal cutting band saw blade to cut wood. Never use a wood-cutting band saw blade to cut metal.

           Some band saw wheels are bare metal. If you want to track narrow blades, your band saw wheels should have rubber tires that are glued onto or inserted into grooves in the metal band saw wheels. These tires are usually crowned. By adjusting the blade tracking device, you can get the blade to stay in one position on the tires or metal wheels.

          Another adjustment moves the upper band saw wheel up and down to increase or decrease blade tension. You will need to release this tension to change band saw blades and, on the newer band saws, you can usually find a lever that does this for you. If not, you will have to loosen the tension knob enough to install a new blade on the wheels. Then re-apply the tension, using the blade tension scale, appropriate to the blade width you are using. Wide blades will require more tension than narrow blades. Narrow blades can break if too much tension is applied. Large band saw blades can wander off the band saw wheels if insufficient tension is used. Always refer to the tension scale on your band saw. Don’t guess.

          After the band saw blade is tensioned properly, disconnect power to the motor and turn the upper wheel by hand to verify that the band saw blade is tracking properly. If not, make appropriate tilt adjustments to the upper wheel until the band saw blade stays in the approximate center of both wheels. A hand wheel or knob is provided on any band saw for this purpose. If the wheels are slightly out of alignment with respect to each other, you can still track a band saw blade. In this case, the band saw blade will be more to the back of one wheel while being more to the front of the other wheel. This discrepancy should eventually be adjusted or “tuned” out of your band saw, but, for now, its OK as long as the band saw blade stays on the wheels while cutting. Once you have the band saw blade tracking properly, reconnect the power and start cutting.

SHAPERS REVIEW

          QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

JET JWS-22CS 1 1/2 HP SHAPER

JET JWS-22CS 1 1/2 HP SHAPER

While a 1 1/2 HP motor is a pretty small for a shaper, this relatively inexpensive shaper does bridge the gap between router table and shaper and it has some pretty nice features for an entry-level machine. Among these is the fact that the totally enclosed, fan-cooled motor is reversible with 2 speeds in each direction (7000 and 9000 RPM). Shaper height adjustments are made safely with a hand wheel. There are two, independent shaper fences with precise micro adjustment capability. There are adjustable work piece hold-downs attached to the fences and a spindle lock for rapid cutter changing.

          Included with this shaper are 1/2″ and 3/4″ spindles, 1/4 and 1/2″ collets for router bits, two table inserts (1 5/8 and 3 ¼ openings) which fit into a 5 1/4″ diameter table opening, two starting pins, a cutter guard, a 4 dust port and a T-slot miter gauge. The cast iron table measures 22 3/8 x 18 1/8. Spindle travel is 1 7/16 and the shaper weighs 190 Lbs. Optional mobile bases are available for this Jet shaper.

JET JWS-25CS 3 HP SHAPER

Moving up quite a bit in horsepower (3 HP, 1 PH) but not very much in price is the Jet JWS-25CS shaper. In addition to magnetic motor controls is a forward/reverse switch for left or right hand shaper operation. The cast iron table measures 25 x 18 and has a 25×7 extension wing for large work pieces. The two-speed pulley drive allows you to choose between two speeds (8000 and 10,000 RPM) and torque settings. As in the shaper above, the fence is micro adjustable. Other similarities include 1/2″ and 3/4 interchangeable shaper spindles and router bit collets (so that you can use either shaper cutters or router bits) and a 4 dust port.

         You also get hold-downs, starting pins, a cutter guard and a T-slot miter gauge. Spindle capacity under the nut is 2 ¾ with the half-inch spindle and 3 with the ¾ spindle. Spindle travel is 3. The 7 1/4 diameter table opening accommodates 7, 3 ½ and 3 table inserts (included). Shaper weight is 331 Lbs.

JET JWS-25X 3HP SHAPER

          This is a newer version of the Jet JWS 25CS shaper above, with the majority of features and specifications unchanged. I will mention only the changes. First of all, there has been a price increase. The router bit collets are now optional. Spindle size under the nut has increased slightly to 2 13/64″ for the half-inch spindle and to 3 13/16″ for the 3/4 spindle. Shaper spindle speeds are 7500 and 10,000 RPM.

          Shaper table opening diameter is down slightly to 6 9/32 with 2 9/16 and 4 21/64″ shaper table inserts supplied. Shaper table size is 25 x 25 ½

JET JWS 35X5-1 5 HP SHAPER

          This shaper has 4 reversible pulley speeds to provide the correct RPM and torque for each type of cutter: 4000, 6000, 8000 and 10,000 RPM. Magnetic controls are provided for shaper safety. The left and right fences are independently micro-adjustable. The 26 1/4 x 32 1/4″ cast iron shaper table comes pre-drilled for a power feeder. Starter pins are included, as are an extruded aluminum shaper fence with T-slots and feather board hold-downs

          1/4 and 1/2 router bit collets are available but are not included.  A 1 1/4″ shaper spindle is included. Shaper spindle capacity under the nut is 4 as is the spindle travel. Diameters of the two, provided table inserts are 2 5/8 and 4 7/8 respectively. A minimum of 400 CFM dust collection is required. Maximum cutter diameter (above the table) is 7 ¼. This shaper weighs 473 Lbs.

POWERMATIC PM2700  SHAPER (3HP)

At 664 Lbs., this shaper is not going to slide around the floor of your shop easily. However, it does come equipped with heavy-duty casters concealed within its base, making it possible to roll it around as needed. There is spindle height digital readout for making fine incremental adjustments. The precision-ground cast iron shaper table top measures 30 x 40 and convenient quick-lock belt tensioning is built into this shaper.. There are two, reversible shaper cutter speeds (7500 & 10,000 RPM). The shaper table is pre-drilled and tapped for a feeder. The shaper fence has dual feather boards and two, 4 dust collection ports.

          3/4″ and 1 1/4″ interchangeable shaper spindle collets are included as are a miter gauge and clear cutter guard. A minimum 600 CFM of dust collection is required. The single phase, 3 HP motor requires 230 volts. Magnetic controls are provided for safety.

POWERMATIC MODEL 29 5HP SHAPER

           This big shaper requires 3 Phase power for its 5 HP motor. Magnetic start is provided. The shaper has a very heavy, cast iron shaper table measuring 35 ½ x 27 5/8. This shaper has 5 reversible speeds: 3000, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 10,000 RPM. There are three standard shaper table inserts and the smaller shaper table insert has a guide shoulder for copy work. Inserts measure 2 1/2″, 5 1/2″ and 5 7/8 x 4 3/16 oval to accommodate the shaper spindle which can tilt 5 degrees forward and 45 degrees back for bevel shaping. Shaper spindle travel is 7 1/16. The entire hold-down and shaper cutterhead shield assembly flips out of the way to facilitate shaper spindle changes.

          The shaper fence has adjustment dials for fine tuning. The shaper miter gauge has a clamp assembly and work stop for shaping the ends of stock. A minimum of 600 CFM of dust collection is required. The shaper dust collection port measures 4 inches. Shaper weight is 682 Lbs.

POWERMATIC TS29 7.5 HP SLIDING TABLE SHAPER

          The sliding table on this 7.5 HP, 3 phase Powermatic shaper has a 4-foot stroke and works with a miter head, hold-down and shaper fence to shape everything from multiple end cuts to tenons. The shaper fence has dual digital readout for quick and accurate adjustment. Even though this is a sliding table shaper, there is still room for a shaper stock feeder. Magnetic controls are included.

          Shaper spindle travel is 7 which allows for stacked tooling. The shaper spindle tilts negative 5 degrees to positive 45 degrees. Large diameter shaper table inserts accommodate almost any size of cutter. There are five speeds, forward and reverse. 800 CFM of dust collection is required. Two 5-inch dust ports are incorporated into the shaper. Maximum shaper cutter diameter (above the table) is 12 inches and 9 below the table. This shaper weighs 1100 Lbs.

SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART

ManufacturerModel HP    PH          Price1/2″3/4″1″1 1/4″VoltageSlidingSpeedsTable
Table
JetJWS-22CS1.51$1000YesYes150/230Two22.3/8″x18.1/8″
JetJWS-25CS31$1,630YesYes230Two25″x25″
JetJWS-25X31$1,800YesYes115/230Two25″ x 25 1/2″
JetJWS-35X5-151$2,600Yes230Four26 3/4″x32 1/4″
PowermaticPM270031$3,300YesYes230Two30″ x 40″
PowermaticModel 2953$4,800YesYesYes230/460Five35 1/2″ x 27 5/8″
PowermaticTS297.53$6,700YesYesYes230/460YesFive51 1/2″ x 33 1/2″

ALL ABOUT SHAPERS

          Depending on how you look at it, theres either no difference between a shaper and a router table or a there’s great deal of difference. They are the same in that they both work by projecting a cutter or bit up through a hole in the table. The work piece is then run along a fence and through the cutter, producing a profile on the work piece matching that of the cutter.

        In, many other ways, however, a shaper and a router table are quite different. The first question you might want to consider is: Considering the type of woodworking I do or I am likely to do in the future, do I need a shaper or will a simple router table do the trick? What will determine the answer to the question is the size of the shaper cutter or router bit profiles you want to create. You do not need to own both a shaper and a router table since many shapers can also spin router bits. However, you cannot spin shaper cutters on a router.

          If you are used to working with routers and router tables, one of the first things you will notice the first time you turn on a shaper is how much quieter it is. The high-pitched whine of the router has been replaced by the quieter whirr that is characteristic of the shaper. The reason for this is two-fold: First, most shapers turn at slower RPMs (7000, to 10,000) than routers which scream along at 20 to 25 thousand RPM. And yet, when you consider the tip speed of the larger shaper cutter as opposed to the router bit, there may not be that much difference in speed at the actual point of cutting. Second, routers are direct drive while shapers use the quieter belt-drive system of rotation.

          Because shaper cutters are so much larger than router bits, they are attached to the shaper differently than router bits are attached to a router. Shapers use heavy metal spindles that are firmly attached into the shaper at the bottom of the spindle. Spindles usually come in 4 sizes: 1/2″, 3/4″, 1, and 1 1/4″ diameters. Some machines only include one spindle but others supply two or more. There are two types of spindles: solid and interchangeable. An interchangeable spindle has a hole in the top end which allows you to mount smaller diameter spindles and even router bit collets. An interchangeable spindle can also hold shaper cutters. Solid spindles are used only for shaper cutters. Cutters, spacers, rub collars and/or ball bearings are dropped onto the spindle shaft from above and then secured with a large, provided nut. The capacity of a shaper spindle is expressed in available space under the nut. The greater the vertical capacity of the shaper spindle, the more cutters and spacers can be accommodated. Another important figure to look at when shopping for a shaper is the amount of  spindle travel. This figure relates to how high or low the spindle can be with relationship to the table top. This relates to the maximum thickness of work piece that can be shaped. Multiple cutters can be put together to create different profiles.

          Generally speaking, the largest shaper cutters work better at lower RPMs. Most shapers will offer you two different speeds. The more expensive shapers may offer you as many as five. Changing speeds is done by moving the drive belt into another pulley position as on a drill press. And, like the drill press, belt tension must be slackened before this can be done. On most shapers, this is accomplished by simply moving a lever that releases the belt tension, then, moving the drive belt into another pulley position and finally, by moving the lever back to its original tight position.

          Most shapers come with “slots” for a miter gauge in both the table and the fence. This is to allow small pieces to be shaped safely and effectively. Another piece of equipment relating to safety is the starter pin. This is a metal pin, threaded on one end, that screws into a threaded hole in the table near the location of the cutter. It gives you a place to rest the work piece against when beginning a freehand cut.

          In a router table, there are two types of router bits you may use: (1) with or (2) without a ball bearing guide. If there is no ball bearing guide on the router bit, you MUST use the router table fence. Same with the shaper. The shaper may use a rub collar or a ball bearing on the spindle shaft to prevent the work piece from being drawn into the shaper cutter deeper than the profile. If you are using a shaper cutter without a rub collar or ball bearing, then you will need to use the fence that is installed on the table. The infeed portion of the fence is set further away from the operator than the outfeed fence. This difference determines the depth of cut. Most shapers allow you to micro-adjust the fence settings for perfect results.

          When shaping irregular (not square) work pieces on a shaper, you will have to work freehand which is inherently more dangerous than using the shaper fence. To do this, you will probably need to remove the shaper fence or, at least, set it back, out of the way, toward the rear of the table. You will need to construct an alternate kind of shaper cutter safety guard. This improvised shaper cutter guard can be made from a round piece of 3/16 or thicker Plexiglas with a hole drilled through it at the center point. This shaper guard must be a bit wider than the swing of the shaper cutter being used. It should be mounted at the top of the shaper cutter or cutters on the spindle and then fastened down with the spindle nut. Keep your fingers as far away from the cutter as possible while maintaining a firm grip on the work piece at all times. With the rub collar or ball bearing installed, you can press the work piece into the shaper cutter without worrying about going too far.

          A shaper can be an extremely dangerous machine if not used properly. Anything I say in this piece or anywhere else should NOT be construed as giving advice that could lead one to do anything dangerous, harmful, injurious or fatal. In, fact, I would say that if you are ignorant of the dangers present in woodworking or are not willing to take the necessary safety precautions, then you should immediately give up woodworking and never go near a woodworking machine again. Here are some precautions you MUST take when using a shaper in the interest of your safety and that of others in your shop:

          1)    ALWAYS use some sort of guard or, even better, a power feeder mounted on your shaper. A power feeder will completely cover the cutter danger area and will push the work piece against the shaper fence as it pushes it through the cutter. Buy a power feeder and use it whenever you can. When the operation precludes the use of a power feeder, at least use an effective cutter guard. Most shaper fences come with guards. Use the guard!

          2)    Most shapers can be run forward or reverse. This is because some shaper cutters or cutter configurations require that the shaper be run in reverse. Before you start any cut DETERMINE THE PROPER DIRECTION OF ROTATION for the cutter or cutters on the shaper spindle. Then check and double-check that the shaper is set to run in the proper cutting direction. If you feed a work piece into a shaper WITH the direction of shaper cutter rotation instead of AGAINST it, the shaper can easily pull the work piece out of your grip and send it flying like a missile through your shop with possible FATAL results.

          3)    NEVER shape small or thin pieces. Instead, shape a larger piece of wood than you need and then rip off what you need on the table saw. Small pieces can also easily become missiles. Further, they will cause your fingers to be way too close to the cutter and if they slip, they may cause your fingers to go into the shaper cutter.

          4)    USE A STARTER PIN when doing free hand work with irregular work pieces on a shaper. It will give you much greater control and may prevent kick-back.

          5)    USE A MITER GAUGE WITH A HOLD-DOWN CLAMP whenever shaping the ends of narrow pieces like table or chair legs. To attempt this without a miter gauge and clamp is asking for a trip to the emergency room.

          6)    USE SHAPER JIGS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. A shaper jig is a shop-made or other device designed to guide cuts for consistent and safe results.

          7)    USE EYE AND EAR PROTECTION and wear a DUST MASK. The reasons should be obvious.

          One more piece of advice, although this doesnt relate to safety as much as it does to work piece conservation. Always shape (or rout) the end grain of a square or rectangular work piece first and then rout along the sides. This way, you have a good chance of shaping or routing away the chip-out at the end of the end grain as you clean up the sides. Also, if you are shaping end grain, try to clamp a back-up board to the work piece so that it passes through the cutter immediately after the work piece, thus preventing chip-out. If you can afford it or think you might be doing a lot of end grain cuts, consider a machine with a sliding table. In a mass production setting, it can pay for itself quickly in time saved and repeated accuracy.

          In the reviews above, we looked at a number of shapers ranging from a barely adequate shaper to a possible over-kill giant, industrial shaper. Which shaper you buy should depend upon your needs. As with any tool, buy a large enough machine so that it can meet your requirements not only now but in the future as well. Don’t over-buy but err on the side of “too big” rather than “too small.” The first shapers we talked about are designed for the small workshop environment and are adequate only to that. We then progressed through medium-sized shapers and finally to industrial shapers.

WOODWORKING PLANERS REVIEW

          QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

WOODWORKING PLANERS

JET JJP-10BTOS 10” JOINTER/PLANER COMBO WITH STAND

          This planer/jointer combo will save you money and space. You can easily transport it from the shop to the jobsite. On the other hand, its not much in the power or capacity departments. For small projects, it does an adequate job. The planer features a sheet metal outfeed table to reduce snipe which is a deep dig at the tail end of a board that is hanging over the end of the outfeed table. All jointers will snipe a board that is extended too far past the end of the planer’s outfeed table. Its simply a matter of having a planer table bed long enough for the length of the board you will be planing… or having someone or something (like a roller stand) to support the board further out from the planer outfeed table.

           The motor in this planer is rated at 13 amps. The horsepower is not specified. There are only two knives in the planer cutterhead. 3 knives is the norm and some of the machines reviewed here have 4 knives. A planer cutterhead RPM of 9000 and 2 knives equates to 18,000 cuts per minute. There is only one feed speed for the planer and that is 19.5 FPM. The planers maximum depth of cut across a 10 board is just 0.08 inch. The planer weighs 73.9 Lbs. An 8 version of this planer jointer is also available for about $100 less but that bench-top planer does not have a stand.

JET JJP-12 12” PLANER/JOINTER

This model is a much more capable jointer planer than the one above, although it is not really portable. For starters, the motor is 3 HP which is more than adequate for a jointer planer of this size. The cutterhead has 3 knives and the jointer table is of the new parallelogram design which insures that the infeed table will follow the arc of the cutterhead as you raise it and lower it and, thus be as close to it as possible at all times. You can change from jointer to planer quickly: the jointer fence does not need to be removed to use the planer. A 4 dust port evacuates chips from both jointing and planing operations. Machine weight is 529 Lbs.

JET JPM-13CS 13” CLOSED STAND PLANER/MOLDER

          The cast iron table reduces planer vibration and is easily positioned with a crank. There are two infeed and outfeed rollers on this planer and two feed rates: 10 FPM for molding and 20 FPM for planing. A weakness in some other planers, the gearbox in this planer has been beefed up and the machine can now handle molder cutters up to 6 inches wide (in several passes). The 115v, single phase, 1 ½ HP motor delivers power to the cutterhead with two V-belts. Lockable casters are built in.

This 13″ planer will accommodate workpieces as thick as 6 1/8 and it can cut as deep as 1/16 across the entire width of the planer at up to 13,500 cuts per minute. The planer’s weight is 242 Lbs.

JET JWP-15DX: 15CS 15” PLANER

          Changing and then adjusting knives in a jointer or a planer can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. This planer eliminates all of that with quick-change knives that need no adjustment. The large, cast iron planer table gives solid workpiece support and the cutterhead is driven by 3 V-belts and a 3 HP 230V TEFC induction motor.

          A 4 dust port aids in chip removal and a two-speed gearbox moves stock through the planer at your choice of 16 or 20 FPM. A minimum of 400 CFM of dust collection suction is required. Maximum depth of cut over the full width is 1/8 and the planer will handle workpieces as thick as 6.    The planer makes up to 13,500 cuts per minute and weighs 540 Lbs.

POWERMATIC 15HH 15” PLANER

          This planer features a Byrd® helical cutterhead with 98 four-sided knife inserts for less chip-out and a smoother final finish. This addition is reflected in the higher price for this planer than a similar planer with a standard straight knife cutterhead. Three V-belts transmit the power of a 3 HP TEFC 230V single phase motor to the planer cutterhead. The infeed roller is serrated steel for better grip and the outfeed roller is smooth.

          The closed planer stand includes built-in casters so that you can easily roll the planer away after use. The precision ground cast iron planer table and extensions give superb workpiece support. A 4 dust port is included. There are 2 speeds: 16 and 20 FPM. The planer table locks firmly during planing. Maximum depth of cut (full width) is 1/8 and 6 high workpieces can be accommodated. The planer weighs 507 Lbs.

POWERMATIC MODEL 15S: PM DELUXE SPIRAL HEAD PLANER


          This is the only planer reviewed here that has a spiral head (refer to article below about cutterhead types).  This will give a smoother cut than a machine with straight knives. Changing cutters is much easier. A digital readout assures accurate table positioning. This planer, like the one above, features a cast iron table, serrated infeed roller and a 3 HP motor. In short, this planer is identical to the one above, the only difference being the spiral head instead of the Byrd® helical head.

JET JWP-160S 16” PLANER

This open side planer features a 4 dust port near the planer cutterhead for collection of dust and chips. 3 V-belts drive the planer cutterhead from a 3 HP TEFC 230V single phase motor. Maximum planing height is 6 and 1/8 of wood can be removed over the entire 16 width in each pass. Minimum planing length is only 6 making it possible to plane smaller workpieces than in most other planers.

          This planer makes up to13,500 cuts per minute and has two feed speeds: 16 and 30 FPM. Machine weight is 396 Lbs.

POWERMATIC 209HH 20” PLANER 

          We are now moving into the larger planers, most with helical heads. This machine includes a 5 HP, single phase motor. An identical planer with a 5 HP, 3-phase motor is available at the same price. This machine features a Byrd® Helical Head with 132 4-sided knives. The fully-enclosed base cabinet has integrated casters for shop mobility.

           The large, cast iron table with extensions measures 55.5 x 20 for excellent workpiece support.  Four feed speeds are available: 15, 20, 24 and 31 FPM. The dust port is 5 inches in diameter for efficient chip removal. Minimum dust collection is 900 CFM. Maximum planing height is 8 inches. Boards as short as 6 3/4 can be safely fed into the machine. This model weighs 800 Lbs.

DELTA 22-451 DC-580 20” PLANER


          This planer has a lever right up front for engaging and disengaging power to the serrated planer infeed roller quickly and easily. While you might expect a helical planer cutterhead on a machine of this size and price, there is only a standard three knife head. It can take a maximum workpiece height of 8 5/8 and can plane pieces as short as 9 inches.

          The maximum depth of cut for this planer is 1/8 across the entire 20-inch width. This planer has a 6 dust collection port and makes 15,000 cuts per minute.

POWERMATIC 201HH 22” PLANER 

This large planer includes a helical planer cutterhead with 150 knife inserts. This is a 1350 Lb., cast iron planer designed for minimum vibration. While this is not a planer that you can roll around the shop, it does have 4 adjustable foot pads for leveling. Two feed speeds are built into this planer: 20 and 30 FPM.

         The segmented planer infeed roller is mounted on roller bearings and allows for the planing of several boards at the same time. The planer includes bed rollers that are adjustable from the front of the planer and a 5-inch dust collection port. 900 CFM dust collection is a required minimum on this large planer. Maximum planer depth-of-cut is 3/16. Digital height readout is included.

DELTA 22-470 24” PLANER

          This planer, as large and expensive as it is, uses a 3-knife straight cutterhead. Its 3-phase, 220/440V motor is rated at 7.5 HP. It comes wired for 220V. It comes with a knife-setting gauge and wrench.  It has a sectional, serrated infeed roller. It makes as many as 15,000 cuts per minute, has a 6 dust collection port and two feed rates: 20 and 30 FPM. Maximum planing thickness is 9 inches.

POWERMATIC WP 2510 25″PLANER

          This is a really large and powerful planer, probably more than most woodworkers would need but, then again, maybe not. On the other hand, its a midget when compared to the 52 Cemco Planer/Sander I used to use. I did not really needed a machine that large except once when I had to manufacture my own gumwood veneer 4×8 plywood panels. I had use of the machine, so I used it.

         If you really need a planer like the Powermatic WP 2510, you will not be disappointed with the capabilities of this planer. You might not like the electricity bill but, then again, it wont take long to get your work done accurately and smoothly.

          This planer features a solid steel helical cutter head with 4-sided carbide inserts. It has segmented infeed rollers and chip breakers. The planer motor dwarfs anything we have seen so far at 15 HP, 3-phase, 230/460 volts. The massive planer gearbox utilizes a large chain with automatic chain tensioners to drive both the infeed and outfeed rollers. The 3-speed selector (20, 25 & 30 FPM) allows you to quickly change FPM rates as needed. The planer table contains 2 adjustable rollers for the planing of uneven stock. This planer is capable of 30,000 cuts per minute. It has a 5-inch dust port and requires at least 600 CFM of dust collection.

          The Powermatic WP 2510 planer can cut across the entire 25 width as deep as 1/4 and can plane workpieces as thick as 9. The smallest board you can safely feed into this machine must be at least 10 long.

SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART: PLANERS

Approx.MaxPh.HPVoltageCutter-CutsMinimumDustFeedMaxMaxMinWt.
StreetCutheadPerDustPortRate(s)CutThick.Pc.Lbs.
PriceWdthMinuteCollectionDia.FPM(“)Lgth.
Jet JJP-8BTOS$47010″113 a.1152 Knife18,000,19.50.084.9258.4
Jet JJP-12 12″$2,00012″132303 Knife4″529
Jet JPM-13CS$1,30013″11.5115/2303 Knife13,50010,200.066.12514242
Jet JWP-15DX$1,50015″132303 Knife400 CFM4″16,2068540
Powermatic 15HH$2,80015″1323098 Knife4″16,200.1368507
Powermatic 15S$1,70015″332303 Spiral135004″2 speeds0.1368418
Jet JWP 160S$1,35016″132303 Knife4″2 speeds0.136
Powermatic 209HH$3,80020″15230132 Hel.900 CFM5″16,20,24,310.0986.75800
Delta 22-451 DC-580$4,77320″152203 Knife15,0006″20,300.138.6259840
Powermatic 201HH$7,02922″17.5230150 Hel.900 CFM5″20,300.099.25101300
Delta 22-470$5,23824″37.5220/4403 Knife15,0006″20,300.198.6259980
Powermatic WP 2510$13,38825″315230168 Hel.30,000600 CFM5″20,25.300.259101725

ALL ABOUT WOOD PLANERS

          In the old days (whenever that was) lumber was simply sawn out of logs and left to air dry. If you wanted to be able to see the grain so that it could be matched with other boards, it had to be planed. If you wanted it planed, you needed a long bed hand plane and a lot of skill. With the invention of the planer, no one needed to plane boards by hand any more and the practice stopped in the name of progress. Today, most boards are delivered already thickness planed and some are even straight line ripped on one edge, making things very easy for the woodworker. So, why own a planer?

          Thickness planing does not end at the lumber yard. Lumber, once edge glued into panels is still uneven and the boards are never in perfect alignment with each other. Something must take this rough panel from, say, 1 7/8 down to its final thickness of , say, 1 ½, smooth both sides. There are two ways of doing this that I know of: an abrasive planer (wide-belt sander or drum sander) or a planer that uses knives in a cutterhead. A combination of a knife planer and an abrasive planer would be ideal but not always affordable. This is because planers have a way of tearing chips out of loose grain. They are, however, much faster in removing material than a sanding machine. A sanding machine will never tear out chips but it may use up a lot of valuable production time. So, in an ideal world, where money didnt matter, you could do most of the thicknessing with the planer and then finish up to the final thickness dimension with the sanding machine.

          In fact, if you have the money and need to do your woodworking on an industrial scale, there are machines with a planer head followed by two or more sanding heads. I had the chance to use such a planer for several years. A friendly competitor bought it for his woodworking firm in Hawaii and had it shipped in by ocean freight from the mainland. This industrial planer/sander, made by Cemco, used 880 volt, 3 phase motors. A ten HP motor ran the conveyor belt and the one planing and two sanding heads each had its own 60 HP electric motor. It could plane and sand panels 52 inches wide. In size, it looked like a large, industrial printing press. My friend bought into a sawmill and had Hawaiian Koa wood shipped by barge from the Big Island to Oahu where he had constructed a dehumidification kiln next to the Cemco machine. Eventually, he over-extended himself financially and had to close his business. He found a buyer for the planer/sander but he had to ship the huge machine all the way back to the mainland because no one in Hawaii had a use for such a machine.

          Of course, I dont know what your plans are for a planer but Im pretty sure you wont be buying a Cemco any time soon. That still leaves a lot of sizes and types of planers to discuss.

          A planer/jointer uses the same cutterhead for planing as it does for jointing. It looks like a jointer but it also has a space underneath the jointer table where you insert boards for planing. You feed the boards in one direction on the jointer table, above the cutterhead, and in the opposite direction through the planer underneath the cutterhead. This is because the cutterhead only spins in one rotational direction. A planer, if it has molding capability becomes a molder simply by removing the straight knives and replacing them with profile cutters.

          Most planers are constructed with the cutterhead mounted in the top part of the planer and a metal table with rollers underneath the lumber being planed. The thickness is adjusted by raising and lowering the planer table with relationship to the planer cutterhead above. The lumber is driven through the machine by the front roller or rollers which are usually serrated for better grip. The outfeed rollers are at the same height as the infeed rollers but they are usually not powered and are shiny and smooth. There are some large, expensive planers in which all rollers are powered.

          There are three types of cutterheads: straight knife, spiral and helical. The terms spiral and “helical” are often used interchangeably although this is inaccurate. There are strong similarities between the spiral and helical planer cutterhead types but there IS a difference as I will explain. Straight knives are used on most planers in the less expensive range. For the most part, straight knives are fine but they do have two drawbacks: they are difficult to align with each other after changing and they tend to tear out loose grain more easily.

          Helical and spiral planer cutterheads get around both problems to a large degree. It has been found that a bunch of small cutter blades arrayed in a spiral wrap around the planer cutterhead will minimize splintering. Helical planer cutterhead knives are usually square or rectangular in shape and sharpened on either 2 or 4 sides. They are mounted directly onto the face of the cutterhead and, thus, require no adjustment to align them with each other. To change a cutter in a helical head, you simply remove the screw that holds it in place. If there are unused edges on the cutter, you can rotate that cutter to expose the new edge to the wood and then replace the screw. You buy planer helical cutters by the box and replace them as needed: Sometimes you replace just a few that have become nicked. At other times, all cutters have been dulled on all sides and it is time to replace all of the cutters in the planer.

          The spiral planer cutterhead is different from the helical planer cutterhead in that a whole row of cutters, connected together in a flexible strip are attached to the spiral head, one row at a time. There are spiral tracks or indentations in the cutterheads that locate the cutter strips. There may be three or so tracks on a spiral planer cutterhead. Helical planer cutterheads are much more common than spiral planer cutterheads.

           In the review above, we had a lot of ground to cover because there are a lot of planers on the market. I limited my discussion to four planer manufacturers: Delta, Jet, Powermatic and Laguna Tools and, from those manufacturers, I selected planer models that best represent planers from 10-inch to 25-inch width capacity, from $400 to $12,000 in price and from about 1 HP to 15 HP in power. I eliminated machines that closely duplicate the machines I was reviewing but I sometimes mentioned them in passing. Still, that leaves 14 planers that I reviewed, starting with the smallest jointer planer and going to the largest planer. Be sure to check out the SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART above at the bottom of all the reviews. It will make it much easier to quickly decide which planer, if any, is right for you and your purposes.