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New and Interesting Shop Stuff 2000

New and Interesting Shop Stuff 2000
By Edited by George Vondriska, Art Direction: Barbara Pederson, Photography: Bill Zuehlke

Product Reviews

New Disc Sander
Delta’s new disc sander offers serious disc sanding in a benchtop unit, at an affordable price ($180). The 12-in. disc is powered by a 10-amp motor and there is a hand brake to stop the disc after you’ve shut off the sander. (I love that feature.) The disc runs at 1,725 rpm, a good slow speed to prevent burning.

The table tilts 45 degrees in two directions and includes a miter gauge slot. Although no miter gauge is included, any miter gauge with a 3/4-in. bar will fit.

The sander has a 2-1/2-in. dust collection port and dust pick up is effective, even with a shop vacuum. A 40-in. hose is included.

Delta, (800) 438-2486

Blade Height Tool
Setting the height of a dado head in a tablesaw can be a painstaking task. Unless you’re sure your insert is perfectly aligned with the tabletop, you should measure blade height from the table, not the insert. This can be awkward. Here’s a device that takes out some of the guesswork.

The BladeGauge, $40, has a magnetic base that holds it to the table, and steps that are precisely machined in 1/8-in. increments from 1/8 in. to 2 in. Each step is labeled with a blade-height measurement. Locate the step for the blade height over the blade. Raise the blade until it contacts the step and an LED lights up.

I’d prefer to see steps in 1/16-in. increments instead of 1/8 in. (The manufacturer says they’re working on this.) I’d also like to be able to use the BladeGauge on my router table, but you’ve got to be working on a conductive surface.
Although I’m not doing my woodworking through bifocals yet, I can see the usefulness of the BladeGauge. It’s a handy tool, and will be even better if it gets the modifications mentioned above.

Pacific Rack and Machine (877) 220-2699

Vacuum Clamp
One of the powerful technologies trickling down from industry is vacuum clamping. Right now, vacuum clamps aren’t cheap, so they’re best suited to production shops, but they’re great tools.

West Oak’s K-B4 kit ($250) provides everything you need to get to work, including four 2-1/2-in. diameter vacuum pucks, 15 ft. of air line, a venturi and a muffler. You don’t need a vacuum pump, just your air compressor and the venturi.

When you provide air to the system, one face of the puck seals itself to your bench. The other has a spring-loaded valve that opens when you set your work on it. A high-quality gasket lets the puck hold onto all but the roughest materials. Planed solid wood and cabinet-grade sheet goods are held with ease.

The hold down power of these vacuum clamps is amazing. You won’t have any trouble routing or sanding vacuum-clamped pieces. A router mat can do some of the work that the vacuum clamp does, but you won’t get the same hold-down power.

Another handy, though admittedly expensive, device is a vacuum fence. West Oak’s Vacuum Hold-Down Fence uses pucks similar to those in the K-B4 kit. This set-up works even under the pressure of routing a 3/4-in. dado.

The 50-in. fence sells for $190. Add the K-C kit ($124) to get the venturi and all the necessary parts to hook up to your air compressor.

You’ll need a compressor that can provide a minimum of 2 cfm at 75 to 95 psi for these clamps to work.

West Oak, Inc. (515) 264-0014

Japanese Planes, Great Price
Here are three affordable (though well made)Japanese pull planes from Kakuri. They feature: incredibly sharp irons right out of the package; and comfortable-to-hold, rift-sawn white oak plane bodies. These planes handle best when cutting on the pull stroke.

The smoothing plane, $25, can be used like you’d use a block plane. It works great to smooth end grain in hardwoods. The chamfer plane, $35, has a fence for cutting 30, 45, and 60-degree chamfers. Long grain or cross grain, it cuts smooth. The radius plane, $35, cuts 1/8-in. and 1/4-in. radii. Like the chamfer plane, it’s effective across or with the grain.

You’ll have to get the hang of tapping the plane body with a mallet to set the depth of the iron. Tap the front of the plane to increase the cut, tap the back of the plane to decrease the cut. But if you’re interested in trying Japanese planers, here’s an excellent place to start.

Woodcraft Supply (800) 225-1153

Reprinted with permission from American Woodworker magazine, ©2000 Home Service Publications, Inc., an affiliate of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Suite 700, 2915 Commers Drive, Eagan, MN 55121. All rights reserved.