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Bob Hunter

New products hit woodworking market at AWFS Fair

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… Read more

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IWF Day 3: Lots of cool tools and accessories

In a show as large as the International Woodworking Fair, where city-block-size industrial setups can dominate nearly all your senses, it can be challenging to not focus on the big, eye-catching stuff and instead find the nuggets sometimes tucked away in small booths. I always commit myself to looking over every booth at these tradeshows in search of new tools and accessories, and this show did not disappoint.

Rockler Woodworking and Hardware took up only a small corner booth, but WOW was it packed with lots of good stuff! Here’s a quick rundown:

• Mixing Mate lids with built-in stir paddles for paint and finish cans. Snap them on, stir, then pour—and never fill up the rim around the lid! Quart size is available now and costs $15; gallon size will be out in January and sell for $20.

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Machinery news from IWF Day 2

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.

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New tools! Word from the first day of IWF

One of the great things about attending woodworking tradeshows as a member of the working press is being surprised by new-product launches that you didn’t expect. That doesn’t happen as much as it used to (due mostly to the last 4 years of recession cutbacks and such), but I was surprised by a few things at the opening day of the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta.

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New woodworking tools among dozens of new products from Bosch

It seems like every time I speak with someone at Bosch, they’ve got new tools to tell me about. Last fall I was fortunate to tour Bosch’s worldwide headquarters in Germany, as well as four production facilities, and the thing that most impressed me about this German-based company is that it’s made a commitment to reinvest 8% of its sales into research and development for new products. Well, I just returned from Bosch’s North American headquarters in Chicago, and I saw that commitment carried out in the launch of nearly four dozen new power tools, measuring tools, and accessories for woodworking, construction, metalworking, and concrete. You’d never know there was a recession in the U.S. based on Bosch’s output. I’ll focus on the tools most applicable to woodworking.

The biggest splash, in my opinion, is the launch of a plunge base for the Bosch Colt palm router. Read more

DeWalt launches brushless-motor impact driver and other tools

Stressing its commitment to innovation and system expansion, DeWalt announced this week the launch of more than a dozen cordless and corded tools as well as some accessories. Topping the list is a new impact driver in the 20-Volt Max line, but this one sports DeWalt’s first brushless motor. It will be on the market in April, selling for $279 with 1.5-amp-hour battery packs and $349 for 3-Ah packs.

This new impact driver comes out less than a year after DeWalt debuted the 20V Max line—which included an impact driver and several drill/drivers—featuring standard carbon-brush motors. The brushless motor powers the tool more efficiently, creating less heat and friction, and resulting in a 57% increase in battery run time compared to the 20V Max driver with carbon-brush motor. With a brushless motor, energy is transferred from the armature to the drive train electronically, whereas with the other system that energy transfers through the brushes by rubbing directly on the armature. Read more

Tracing Swiss-made tools and Bosch’s place in the global market

My whirlwind tour of Bosch’s corporate offices and manufacturing facilities in Europe continued from Germany into Switzerland.

Like most large companies in the world, the Robert Bosch Company has grown not only through innovation and development of its own product lines, but also through acquisitions of existing companies. For example, in recent years Bosch has acquired Sia Abrasives, a Swiss-based company making sandpaper and other abrasives for many industries, and also Freud, the Italian business that makes cutting tools (saw blades, router bits, shaper cutters, etc.) and produces its own carbide.

My next stop was the former Scintilla company headquarters in Solothurn, Switzerland. Read more

Discovering about the man behind the Bosch tool company

On my second day in Germany to learn about the Robert Bosch Company, I discovered a great deal more about the man who founded the company, as well as a little bit about his tools from the early days and in today’s market.

At the Bosch Archives (which is more like a Bosch museum, but they had already named it before I arrived) I enjoyed a guided tour through the facility from the curator. He told me about how Robert Bosch, born in 1861 in the area near Stuttgart, Germany, grew up with a desire to be a precision mechanic. He studied under a number of established practitioners in Germany and the U.S. (including Thomas Edison), and later found his calling making parts for internal combustion engines. His magneto, the part that generates the spark needed to burn the fuel in the engine cylinders, was his signature product, and his business grew well from that. That magneto is visible today as a cross section in the Bosch company logo. (Run out and grab a Bosch tool and study it, or just look at the photo here of one of the original magnetos, and you’ll see the logo in the cross-section of the armature.)

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Finding out just what all Bosch sells (hint: it’s not all tools)

I’ve always appreciated Bosch power tools for their quality, performance, and durability, but I’d never really studied the history of the Robert Bosch Company. So to get a better idea of what makes this company so successful—and not just in the U.S., but also throughout the world—I’ve traveled to Europe to find out. I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday, and then drove to Stuttgart, home of the company since the beginning 125 years ago.

On Monday, I visited the corporate headquarters of Bosch. Read more

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New project: A box full of blocks

My sister and her husband in Indiana recently adopted a one-year-old girl from South Korea. Since this is their first child, she asked me to make a set of building blocks for her. So I did just that, making over 100 total blocks in 12 different shapes. I made them from cutoffs from 2×10 and 2×12 Douglas fir construction lumber. After they were all cut out and sanded smooth with edges rounded over, my wife and daughters and I painted each shape a different color. Then I stacked all the blocks into a haystack-like shape, measured the stack’s dimensions, and built a box to store all the blocks. I made it about an inch larger in all three dimensions so my niece wouldn’t have to be precise in stacking the blocks back into the box. The box is also made of Douglas fir, with 3/8-inch box joints at the corners and Rockler Lid-Stay Torsion Hinges on the lid to keep it from slamming on her fingers. This was not a particularly difficult project, but it sure was fun to do knowing she’d have lots of fun playing with the blocks for years to come. And, when they came to visit us in Iowa a month ago, in true kid fashion, she liked playing in the box almost as much as playing with the blocks.

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