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The Well-Equipped Shop - Super-Smooth Benchtop Planer

The Well-Equipped Shop - Super-Smooth Benchtop Planer
By George Vondriska and Tim Johnson; Art Direction: Patrick Hunter; Photography: Staff, Unless otherwise indicated

Delta’s two-speed portable planer (model 22-580) will set you back $450. That’s $50 to $150 more than most other portable planers. Most woodworkers get darn good results with their single-speed benchtop planers, so we wanted to know, is having a second speed worth the extra dough?

Before we answer that question, let’s clarify what “two-speed” means. The 22-580’s cutterhead speed doesn’t change. Instead, you can slow down the feed rate. When a board passes under the cutterhead more slowly, it gets more knife cuts per inch (cpi) and the result is a smoother surface.

Standard single-speed, portable planers operate at around 60 cpi. With the 22-580, you can choose 60 cpi (regular speed) or 90 cpi (slow speed) with the flip of a switch.

Most boards planed at regular speed will be acceptable. But with the 22-580, a final pass at slow speed results in a smoother finish and less sanding.

You’ll see far less tear-out when you plane “problem” boards at slow speed. Any board with curly figure or reversing grain qualifies (see photos below). Every once in a while, a board tears-out badly, for no apparent reason. With the 22-580, you can probably save it by making the last couple passes at slow speed.

The Delta 22-580 handles stock up to 13-in. wide and from 1/8-in. to 6-1/2-in. thick. It’s equipped with double-edged disposable knives that are a snap to change (a replacement set costs $40), and a cutterhead lock to control snipe. The dust shroud, a $25 accessory, exhausts left or right.

The 22-580’s height-adjustment mechanisms are first rate. A slick “blade-zero” indicator makes it easy to set the cutterhead for the first pass. The stock thickness indicator is easy to read (surprise!), and an indexing ring on the handle lets you make precise adjustments.

Would we spend the extra bucks? Yes. The 22-580 would have fared very well in our portable planer tool test (AW #79, April 2000, page 82). Its two-speed capability really puts it in a class of its own. Saving a few pieces of highly figured (i.e. expensive) wood with the slower speed will quickly offset the price difference.

Curly maple planed at regular speed looks like a potholed road. Removing the same amount (1/32 in.) at slow speed dramatically improves the finish quality.

New Left-Tilt Cabinet Saw
Grizzly Industrial has jumped into the left-tilt cabinet saw pool. At $895, the G1023SL should make a big splash. It costs about $300 less than other left-tilt saws on the market.

What’s special about a left tilt? It’s safer, for one thing. Angling the blade away from the rip fence means the workpiece won’t get trapped between the angled blade and the fence -- no kickback. A left tilt also allows you to miter large pieces, like cabinet sides, with the good face up. Marking cuts is easier, because you’re measuring outside lengths. Any tear-out caused by the blade will be hidden on the inside of the joint.

Like many cabinet saws, this machine has a 3-hp, 220-volt, single-phase motor. It has a 26-in. rip capacity and comes with a T-style rip fence. Power comes through a magnetic switch, the safest type to have on a tablesaw.

Adjustable-Height Bench
Want to save your back? If it seems your workbench is never the right height for the task at hand, the Noden Adjust-A-Bench may be just the ticket. For $380, you’ll end up with a rock-solid bench that adjusts from 27- to over 43-in. tall, quickly and easily.

Cutting dovetails? Raise the bench. Assembling a big project? Lower the bench. Mount your portable planer or benchtop lathe at a comfortable working height. The list of applications goes on and on.

The name Adjust-A-Bench is a little misleading, because you aren’t actually buying a bench. Instead, you get a pair of ratcheting frames that form the ends of the base. You have to supply hardwood rails (about $20) to connect the two ends, plus your own top. The top could be anything from a solid-core door ($75) to a traditional, solid-wood benchtop with face and tail vises ($400).

Your top ratchet bar; your rails foot pedal
It’s easy to raise the top. Just lift it, one end at a time. The ratcheted adjustment system has twelve stops. Stepping on the foot pedal while lifting up on the top releases the ratchet and lowers the top. Accidentally stepping on the pedal while you’re working won’t make the top come crashing down.

Freud Jigsaw With easy blade Changes
Jigsaw blade changes are a snap with Freud’s new FJ85. To top it off, the FJ85, which has a 6-amp motor with variable-speed control and orbital-blade action, sells for only $120. It’s a bargain!

Tool-free blade changing isn’t new to jigsaws, but regardless of price, Freud’s spring-loaded system is one of the best. Just open the release, slip in the blade, lock, and you’re good to go. When it’s time to change blades, the internal spring spits out the blade like a watermelon seed. This is especially handy when a blade breaks right at the end of the blade mount, and it’s too short to grab and pull out.

The FJ85 is also outfitted for dust collection, a feature you don’t find on many other jigsaws. The system doesn’t work great, but it’s better than nothing.

The FJ85 has a removable plastic base to protect material that would get scratched by its metal base. What it doesn’t have is a blower to keep the work area clear. You’ll have to provide your own hot air!

Blade release
Blade changes are easy because of the FJ85’s quick-release mechanism.

Our Favorite Marking Gauges
Marking gauges scribe reference lines on wood for saw and chisel cuts. If you want to cut dovetails by hand, you’ve got to have one. Gauges that score the wood with a beveled-edge wheel, like the ones shown here, work best. Pin-type gauges merely scratch the wood and can’t mark a crisp line across the grain. Knife-type gauges mark crisply, but they require initial and frequent sharpening. Wheel gauges are ready to go right out of the box.

A no-frills marking tool you can depend on, like the Veritas (above right), costs $20 or less (see Sources, page 108). If your mitts tend to fumble with small parts and fine adjustments, the Tite-Mark ($80) is worth a close look because it has a great micro-adjust mechanism.

Beveled-edge cutting wheel
The wheel cuts like a knife, incising crisp lines with or across the grain. Its rounded shape won’t catch or dig in. The bevel holds the gauge against the stock so the lines don’t wander. The wheel doesn’t rotate during use, but you can reset it to get a fresh edge.

Reprinted with permission from American Woodworker magazine, ©2002 Home Service Publications, Inc., an affiliate of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Suite 700, 2915 Commers Drive, Eagan, MN 55121. All rights reserved.