Innovation has not been easy to find in the woodworking machinery sector here at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. Chalk it up to the recession mostly as manufacturers have scaled back on new product launches and research and development, as well as the fact that fewer people are buying stationary machines. Then consider that several large manufacturers did not exhibit at the show, and it left a slimmer pool to begin with. Nonetheless, I was able to find several new machines.
As I detailed in my first report, Powermatic brought three new machines to the show. In addition to the bandsaw and drill press, the gold-and-black folks had their new 24” wood lathe on display with renowned turner Nick Cook doing the turning. Cook, a resident of the Atlanta area, has worked with Powermatic for the last 5 years in developing this lathe, a super-deluxe machine that sells for $7,500. Among the lathe’s many features is a built-in vacuum system through the headstock spindle that allows you to grip (using a special chuck) a bowl or any other vessel by its already-turned end so you can finish shaping the other end. This lathe is almost over-built, made of loads of cast iron and weighing in at nearly 950 lbs. Its 3-hp motor runs from 40 to 3,500 rpm. You can turn up to a 42” blank between centers, and because the headstock slides and the tailstock comes off, you can also outboard-turn up to 88” in diameter. Very impressive!
Laguna Tools also launched a new wood lathe at the show. Actually, it’s two very similar lathes: both have 36” between centers, but one has a 20” swing with 2-hp motor ($3,300) and the other 24” and 3 hp ($3,900). Both lathes use a Servo DC electric motor rather than a traditional AC motor. This feature, according to Laguna president Torben Helshoj, produces greater torque at lower speeds than traditional motors. Both lathes have a tailstock mount that swings out of the way so you can slide the headstock down for outboard turning.
The news from General and General International was a little sad mixed in with the good. The sad part is that General is closing down its production plant near Montreal and will no longer make machines in Canada, due primarily to soaring raw-material prices and ever-decreasing sales of the higher-priced machines. General will make an abundant supply of parts to support the Canadian-made tools far into the future, according to Norm Frampton, head of sales and marketing. General International will continue to make woodworking machines in Taiwan and import these for sale in the U.S. and Canada.
As for new-tool news from General International, the company launched a nifty 1-hp dust collector that’s easier than ever to roll around a shop. It comes with a 1-micron canister filter, and will sell for $400. The company will also sell a limited-edition 30th anniversary edition of its popular Excalibur 21” scrollsaw, painted in the black and gold color scheme of the original. They will take orders from vendors and retailers and then make a one-time production run of just that many saws; price for this saw will be depend on the number of orders, Frampton said. General International continues to add to its router-table lineup and accessories. You can now buy floor-model or benchtop router tables with cast-iron, phenolic, or melamine-coated MDF tops. The cast-iron tops can also be mounted to their tablesaws between the fence rails and secured to the saw’s cast wings.