The 2013 AWFS Fair (Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers) in Las Vegas was hot (at least outside) and smaller than past shows, but those manufacturers who did exhibit brought lots of new tools and products to debut. Here are some that most appealed to me:
The most intriguing innovation at the show had to be……Teknatool’s new DVR (digital variable reluctance) drill press. Using the same type of motor launched a few years ago on its wood lathe, Teknatool empowers this drill press to virtually think for itself. This direct-drive motor monitors speed, resistance, and electrical draw to maintain the optimum speed for each job. You input the size of the bit and the type of wood, and the machine sets the speed itself. This drill press starts (slowly, at first) when you begin to lower the quill, and then stops when released. A proximity sensor around the chuck shuts down the machine if your hand or chuck key get near the chuck. The electronics monitor for bit runout and dullness, and also speed up just as the bit is about to break through the workpiece’s bottom face, leaving a cleaner hole, according to Teknatool’s engineer. This drill press will be available in 2014 and Teknatool hopes to sell it for about 10–20% more than current premium drill presses.
Teknatool also launched a new system for its Nova lathe chucks: the Infinity Quick Change system. This system will allow users to change jaws without having to remove screws, as with previous models. The Infinity retrofit kit will work on any existing Nova chuck to incorporate the new jaws. The jaw retrofit kit costs $139 and converts old jaws to the new system. The chuck retrofit kit ($149) converts an older chuck. And the complete kit costs $349.
ShopBot’s new HandiBot CNC machine brings digital router carving technology down to a price level within reach of the home woodworker. The unit we saw was a prototype, but ShopBot estimates it will sell in the sub-$2,000 range. The HandiBot is essentially a portable CNC unit that routs a programmed pattern onto a small workpiece, or you can rout that area and then reposition the machine to continue over a larger workpiece. The Handibot uses a compact router, shown here with Makita’s 1-1/4-hp model, to do the carving. It also has colored LED lights to indicate when it’s safe to reach into the cavity: green for safe, red for stop.
In addition to bringing several new machines to the market, Rikon Power Tools also changed its primary color from green to blue. This will be a running change, with no performance difference in existing machines. Long known for its bandsaws, Rikon launched several new models at this show. A 5-hp 18” bandsaw with 19” of resaw capacity will sell for $2,500 and be available early next year. It will include many of the safety features (microswitches, foot brake, easy-reach blade-tensioning wheel) found on the 14” professional saw launched last year. Rikon also launched a new 16” planer with carbide-insert cutterhead. This $2,800 machine has 72 four-sided inserts, with a maximum workpiece capacity of 8-3/16”. It will be available early next year.
Another company embracing the blue color is Steel City. Launched in 2006 as a start-up company with a gray-and-black color scheme, Steel City has suffered some very lean years recently. But ownership has made a renewed commitment to get back aggressively into the woodworking market, and as part of that they’re launching a line of benchtop machines (drill press, jointer, sanders, etc.) with a royal blue primary color. The stationary machinery will remain gray and black. One of the new stationary machines is what Steel City calls a hybrid bandsaw, combining the upper cast-iron C-frame of a traditional bandsaw with a rigid steel lower cabinet. I’ll be interested to see what benefits this combination might provide.
It was also nice to see Senco, makers of fine pneumatic tools, renewing its emphasis in the woodworking market. Senco launched two new 23-gauge pin nailers that will replace the existing FinishPro 10 & 11 models. The 23XSP model ($159) shoots pins from 1/2” to 1-3/8”, and the 23LXSP ($229) shoots from 1/2” to 2” pins. Both have dry-fire lockout and swivel connectors. Senco also launched a new line of oil-free air compressors in hand-carry and wheeled models.
Rockler Woodworking and Hardware continues to amaze me with the number of new products it brings to market each year, and this show was no disappointment. Among the new stuff that impressed me most:
• A glue bottle applicator kit, with an 8 oz bottle and tips for applying glue in biscuit slots and mortises, centered beads on board edges, and spread out with silicone brushes. There’s also a rubber, grooved roller for applying glue over a wide area without sliding. The full kit sells for $19.99.
• Mini silicone glue brushes for $7.99. These are a nice complement to the larger glue brushes launched two years ago.
• A utility rolling ladder kit for use in a garage or basement. This kit has all you need (except the wood) to build a ladder that mounts onto a bar screwed to overhead shelves. You then lift the rubber feet off the floor, slide the ladder sideways where you want it, and you can climb with confidence. The full kit costs $329.
• Adding to its lineup of turning projects, the beer tap handle/bottle opener is cool. You can buy the tap for $24.99 and different caps for $5–8, then turn your own design. They won’t actually dispense beer, but they’ll look sharp in a man cave, and you won’t go searching for a bottle opener.
• A 5-hole shelf-pin drilling jig under the Bench Dog brand. This jig comes with a 1/4” drill bit and indexing pin, and sells for $19.99.
Rockler also teamed up with Next Wave Automation, makers of the CNC Shark, to showcase a new router-table fence system that incorporates digital technology. This fence system mounts onto any router table and enables you to move it incrementally forward and back in .001° increments. You can program in certain router processes, such as making box joints, dovetails, or dadoes, and the unit will automatically position the fence from the bit for each cut. (You must program in the bit size and zero it out to the fence before starting.) This system will sell for $599.
Another company that continues to make meaningful products for the woodworker is MicroJig, makers of the GRR-Ripper push block and MJ Splitter. The new GRR-Rip Block is built similarly to the GRR-Ripper with a rubber bottom surface and large plastic handle, but has two drop-down cleats at each end to catch workpieces and help guide them through a cut. I can see using this push block on a jointer, router table or shaper, and a bandsaw (for resawing). These sell for $30 each.
Supermax, makers of industrial and home-shop sanders (and formerly known as Performax), rolled out a new open-end drum sander with 25” one-pass capacity (that’s 50” in two passes, for you non-math types). With all the same features as its 19/38 sander launched two years ago, the 25/50 will sell for $1,999 with stand.
The leaders in HVLP spraying, Apollo Sprayers launched a new Eco Series of sprayers. These 3, 4, and 5 stage turbines, sold with either a bleeder or non-bleeder spray gun, deliver much of the same performance as Apollo’s leading series, but at a reduced price:
• 3-stage, $599 with bleeder gun, $649 with non-bleeder
• 4-stage, $699 with bleeder gun, $749 with non-bleeder
• 5-stage, $849 with bleeder gun, $899 with non-bleeder
In hand tool news, Lee Valley/Veritas announced it is now selling replacement blades for most Stanley hand planes in its proprietary PM-V11 steel alloy. These blades hold an edge longer than both O1 and A2 blades, but prove easier to sharpen than the harder A2. The blades range from $35 to $73.
Big Tree Tools debuted a new lathe turning spur center at the show. The Badger spur center has a spring-loaded sheath that covers the spurs, preventing accidental tool catches while spinning. It also has a spring-loaded center, which allows you to turn between centers and still be able to grab the workpiece by hand and stop it (spurs not engaged!) without shutting down the lathe. The Badger Pro works the same, but has removable spurs so you can sharpen them if needed.
Posted by Bob Hunter, Tools Editor, WOOD Magazine
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