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AWFS Fair delivers innovative tools and products

Despite what we all know are tough economic times, many tool and woodworking-product manufacturers continue to bring new and innovative tools to the market. I got to see many of these first-hand the past few days at the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers Fair in Las Vegas, the biggest U.S. tradeshow of the year for woodworking. Over 500 manufacturers showed up to display and demonstrate their new products (and some launched in recent years), hoping to generate business with retail distributors and end users.

Before I get into some of the cool new products, let me share with you some of the buzz I picked up at the show:

• At nearly every booth I stopped, manufacturers told me they’re expecting a price increase on almost all their products by the end of the year. Some will be mild (3–5%), but others—particularly those making stationary machines—could see a hike anywhere from 10–20%. Although many reasons factor into this, the two biggest are raw material increases, especially from Asia, and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar in the world market. So if you plan to make a big purchase, better to do it now than wait a few months.

• Nearly every manufacturer and vendor says their sales are off substantially, yet to rebound from the economic downturn that began in 2008. That’s why so many are diversifying and searching for products that will sell and revive their bottom line. For you, the customer and consumer, that means more and better sales; so watch for good bargains.

• Tablesaw manufacturers are genuinely concerned about the ramifications of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s involvement in tablesaw safety. If you’re not already aware, the CPSC is investigating whether to require all tablesaws to have a blade-stop safety device, such as the blade brake on all SawStop saws, installed as standard equipment. SawStop’s technology is protected by a number of patents, so no manufacturer can implement that type of system without licensing it from SawStop’s owners, and that could prove costly. Other experimental systems are being developed, but as of now are not ready for market. This could get testy before it’s resolved; I’ll keep you informed as I learn of updates.

• The biggest areas of innovation and development seem to be in the computerized woodworking sector. CNC-controlled router machines and laser engravers and cutters continue to roll out from existing manufacturers as well as some new ones. And the good news for you is they keep coming down in size and price, making them within reach of home woodworkers and small professional shops. We’re looking into testing and reviewing some of these units and hope to have a review in WOOD Magazine soon.

Now, on to the new products.

Apollo Sprayers launched a new HVLP system with a variable-speed turbine powered by a five-stage motor. Coupled with their top-of-the-line Atomizer spray gun, this unit gives you the ability to microadjust your air pressure depending on the viscosity of your finish, as well as fine-tune the spray pattern with the unique gun. The 1050VR system also adjusts automatically for changes in altitude and barometric pressure to keep your finish at its best, and it has a filter-warning light to indicate when it’s becoming clogged; it also shuts the turbine down when it’s too clogged to avoid harming the motor. This system sells for $1,500.

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, Powermatic will sell for a limited time an ONYX Series of machines. These primarily black machines are exactly the same as current models (the gold and black colors have simply been reversed) and will sell for the same prices, but each of the seven units will come with a value-added bonus. The ONYX PM2000 tablesaw will come with three Amana AGE blades; the 14-inch bandsaw with a riser block; the 1-3/4 hp dust collector with 25 plastic collection bags; the 3520B lathe with an 18-inch bed extension; the 3-hp planer with a digital depth-of-cut gauge. All of these tools, as well as the 18-inch drill press and 6-inch jointer, come with a rubber anti-fatigue mat.

The new Delta Power Equipment, purchased in February by a Taiwanese manufacturer from the Stanley Black & Decker group, did not have any new machines at the show, but it did have one of the new Unisaw tablesaws that was built at its new Anderson, S.C., facility, as well as several other machines. In addition to making the tablesaws in South Carolina, Delta will make radial-arm saws and all Biesemeyer-branded accessories. More good news for you: Delta showed me plans for over a dozen new machines they’ll be launching from late this year into 2013. Among these are a new helical cutterhead that will be at the center of new jointers and planers. This cutterhead features two rows of indexed cutters, four cutters per inch, with enough overlapping to make it perform better than existing heads, according to Mark Strahler, head of product development.

Also, Delta is developing what they call a “midi-shaper,” which is actually a hybrid of a router table and shaper. This unit will feature a dedicated 3-1/4 hp router motor in a fixed lift system, with the electronics removed (and transferred to the switch) to shorten the motor height. The motor will accept common router bits. The cast-iron top will have a Biesemeyer T-square-style fence with independent faces that move side-to-side and front-to-back individually as you’d find on a shaper. Delta is targeting floor-model, benchtop, and bench-mount units from $595 to $895.

More on the way from Delta: steel-frame 14- and 18-inch bandsaws; 110-volt tablesaws with Unisaw styling and Biesemeyer fences; a portable cyclone short enough to fit in a basement shop; a tilting-head spindle sander; and TimberWolf-branded bandsaw blades.

Kreg Tools has always been known for its pocket-hole joinery system, and now that company is adding a shelf-pin jig to its lineup. This handy jig lets you drill six holes at a time with the included 1/4-inch bit. Then to drill more, you simply slide it down and align it to the last hole with the included registration pin. Simple, easy, and selling for $25 this fall.

Woodturners know the importance of using sharp tools, so Teknatool’s newest Nova lathe lets you mount a grinding wheel directly to the outboard side of the headstock. This Nova Comet II 12” lathe features a spline-drive outboard spindle with a quick-lock mechanism to easily attach any of six grinding, sanding, or carving accessories. In its current configuration, this lathe does not have a way to power the accessory and regular spindle separately, but Teknatool’s Tom Guertin said future models will likely have a clutch or similar system in place to disengage the two ends of the spindle.

Now in its 10th year, Rikon Power Tools continues to develop its lineup of woodworking machines. Known most for their bandsaws, the folks at Rikon keep finding ways to make them better. Introduced at this show is a new 14-inch bandsaw that combines the best features of Rikon’s 14, 16, and 18 inch models. The 10-350 Ultimate, this bandsaw has 14 inches of resaw capacity and comes with either a 2-1/2 hp Rikon motor for $1,499 or a 3-hp U.S.-made Baldor motor for $1,799. It has a 21-1/2×19-1/2 inch table with multiposition fence, a foot brake, and four microswitches to kill the motor when activated or prevent accidental start-ups. It takes a 124-inch blade, which means there’s no lower cabinet to allow for the more efficient drive system. Also new from Rikon: a contractor-style tablesaw with a 1-1/2 hp motor, cast-iron wings and a mobile base; a benchtop mortiser with four chisels, 12-inch mini-lathe with a variable-speed reversing motor; and a small dust extractor with 4-inch hose.

SuperMax debuted a new 19-inch wide open-end drum sander that features interchangeable drums, so you can install two types of brush sanders or a wire wheel drum. This sander, which sells for $2,295 with one head, has a belt 3 inches wider than the drum, to better support workpieces. It also has an electronic sensor that slows the belt automatically when the drum begins to bog down.

For the General, General International, and Excalibur brands comes two new router tables with cast-iron tops (one benchtop and one stationary). These tables feature all new router lift systems and a closed cabinet around the router to better collect dust and minimize noise. Also new from the General family: a 6-inch jointer with a 66-1/4”-long table; 15-inch disc sander; and 13×18 and 15×20 CNC carving machines.

Always good for a half-dozen or so new products, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware showed off several new items for dust collection. My favorite is the Dust Right Vortex, a heavy plastic separator that you hook 2-1/2 inch hose to between your shop vacuum and nozzle or tool. This tub has a unique lid that’s contoured to create a cyclonic effect within the 10-gallon tub, so all the heavier chips fall out and only the fine dust escapes to the vacuum to be filtered out. We’ve actually had one of these in our shop for several months and really like it, especially for use with a router table to separate out the heavy chips. It sells for $70. Another product we’ve been using for months is the new Bench Dog Push-Blocs, heavy duty push pads for a jointer or router table. With larger, thicker handles and a better-gripping foam surface than most push pads, these Push Blocs are our new favorites. They sell for $10 apiece. Rockler also launched a benchop router table setup ($60) for trim routers and other compact routers, and an ingenious library rolling ladder hardware kit in multiple sizes.

Just when I thought I’d seen everything there was to see in the world of screws, along comes the new Funnel Head screws from QuickScrews. These new screws feature a self-piloting auger point, reversed threads above and below the main threads, serrated teeth under the head, and back-beveled main threads to help lock them in place. Available in a dozen sizes, these screws will be out this fall and sell in packs of 25, 50, and 100. The company’s Web site is quickscrews.com.

Franklin International launched a new Titebond wood glue: Titebond Translucent. This white glue dries virtually clear, making it ideal for joints where a glue line might show using normal yellow glues.

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