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Bob Hunter

Vacation stop: Festool

Okay, so I’m a tool junkie, so sue me. Last week when I was back home in Indiana on vacation—yes, my wife and I sing “Back Home Again In Indiana” when we cross the border; our girls just roll their eyes—I couldn’t help but swing by the U.S. headquarters of the German-based Festool tool company. After originally setting up shop in southern California, Festool moved its offices to Lebanon, Indiana, about an hour northwest of Indianapolis. On a sidenote, Lebanon is famous for producing Rick Mount, one of the best high school and college basketball players (for Purdue) in history.

So on Friday I was welcomed by Rick Bush and Michael Williams, two guys who share my love of tools. Rick showed me around the warehouse where Festool stores and ships all its products as well as parts for all its tools. I was encouraged to see products flying off the shelves and onto trucks—a good sign for the sagging economy we’ve been mired in the past two years. A few points I found intriguing. Read more

TOOL NEWS: Ridgid, Ryobi launch new tools for second half of 2010

More cordless, more compact, more do-it-yourself home-repair tools. That’s the latest from the folks at the Ridgid and Ryobi brands of tools. Jason Swanson, spokesman for both brands, came to the WOOD Magazine shop today to show us dozens of new products, most of which will launch later this year at Home Depot stores.

Ridgid/Ryobi rep Jason Swanson shows off new tools from each company to the WOOD Magazine gang.

Ridgid/Ryobi rep Jason Swanson, second from right, shows new tools from each brand to the WOOD Magazine gang.

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I’m not into the World Cup; but bowls, yeah, I can do that

It’s been three years since I dug out my mini-lathe from under a bench and put it to use. So in recent weeks, while working on an article for the magazine about bowl turning, I began to get the itch again. But before I could use my lathe, a 12″ Rikon, I had to clean it up and give it a fresh coat of Boeshield T-9 to ward off rust, followed by lube to make the banjo and tailstock slide smoothly. This was also a great time to try out the one part of equipment that had until now been missing from my turning arsenal: a sharpening jig. I’ve had an 8″ grinder with good wheels, but freehand sharpening my turning chisels was proving to be a disaster. So I broke down and got a Oneway Wolverine sharpening attachment for my grinder. It works perfectly with a little practice. Now my chisels are sharp, and I can quickly touch them up with repeatable precision.

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So after a few failures at turning some dry chunks of firewood—actually I decided to call that practice—I turned out a decent bowl from a piece of 2″-thick red oak (on the left). Then I decided to glue together a bunch of the scraps that I seem to collect and make a few bowl blanks. The one on the right is the result of this, an 11″-inch diameter bowl that turned out decent. After blowing apart a maple bowl, I wrapped up the weekend with the elm bowl in the back. (It still needs a little sanding.) But overall I’m having fun getting back into turning. Bowls make nice gifts, so I’ll probably be making a few more over the next few months. I also want to practice my spindle turning skills so I can get back to making furniture.

Getting a first-hand look behind the scenes at DeWalt and Delta

I just wrapped up two days at the home headquarters of the Black & Decker family of tools—DeWalt, Porter-Cable, Delta, and B&D—in Towson, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb. While there I got a sneak peek at lots of new tools, some ready for launch this summer, others for later this fall, and still more even farther down the road. I even got to use several of the tools—my job is so COOL!

Most of what I saw for release this calendar year carries the DeWalt brand, but I did see a few from Delta and Porter-Cable. Before you get too worked up with excitement, let me disclose now that I can’t talk about most of these tools today. It was one of those spit-in-your-hand-and-shake-on-it kind of promises. You know the type: If I tell you about those tools now, there will be a team of mysterious yellow-and-black vans following me home tonight. Yeah, I know, too bad, but stay tuned—you’ll really like what’s coming. Some of it I’ll get to write about in August when the company officially launches those products at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. And you know WOOD Magazine will be all over that show!

WOOD Magazine Tools Editor Bob Hunter tries out the new 12-volt impact driver.

WOOD Magazine Tools Editor Bob Hunter tries out the new 12-volt impact driver.

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TOOL NEWS: Rockwell shows new cordless tools to WOOD Magazine

If you’re not familiar with the line of new Rockwell tools—sold at Menards home centers as well as online retailers such as Amazon.com—then let me bring you up to date. For decades, Rockwell was one of the standards in woodworking machinery, and later changed its name to Delta Machinery (after starting out as Delta back in the 1930s). Now another U.S.-based company is licensing the Rockwell name for its own brand of portable power tools.

Rockwell's Mike Mangan talks about the H3 Rotary Hammer

Rockwell's Mike Mangan talks about the H3 Rotary Hammer

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TOOL NEWS: Rikon adds two new benchtop tools

Rikon, long known for making high-quality bandsaws, has added two more tools to its growing lineup. First up is a 16″ benchtop scrollsaw, model 10-600VS, that sells for $160. This saw features a variable-speed control from 550 to 1,650 strokes per minute, a cast-iron base, an aluminum table that tilts up to 45°, 2″ workpiece-thickness capacity, a flexible-neck task light, and a 1-3/8″ dust port.

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Next is a benchtop belt/disc combination sander, model #50-150, that sells for $120. It features a 1/3-hp motor to power the 1″-wide sanding belt and 5″-diameter disc; both are equipped with 100-grit abrasives. The 3-3/4″ x 7-1/4″ disc sander aluminum table tilts up to 45°. The belt table also tilts to allow for sharpening chisels. Two 1-1/2″ dust ports help you control dust.

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For more information on these tools, go to rikontools.com or call Rikon at 877-884-5167.

TOOL NEWS: There’s a new bear in town

Grizzly Industrial Tools has announced it’s adding a new line of machinery to its woodworking and metalworking lineup. The Polar Bear Series of tools and machines will be available in July, sporting a new logo and predominantly white paint scheme with Grizzly-green accents.

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The tools are identical to existing Grizzly machines in every way except for the paint and price, according to Melinda Sweet, assistant marketing manager for Grizzly. The Polar Bear Series will launch at introductory prices that are about 10 to 25% less than the same green Grizzly machines. Sweet said the company has not yet established regular prices for the Polar Bear products once the introductory period expires. She also said Grizzly will continue to sell its current green line of machines, as well as its sibling line of Shop Fox machines. Read more

TOOL NEWS: SawStop adds 110-volt closed-cabinet tablesaw

SawStop has added to its ever-growing lineup of tablesaws with a 110-volt version of its Professional Cabinet Saw. This new model, available in August, is essentially the same 10″ saw as the 3-hp version we reviewed in the May 2010 issue of WOOD Magazine (and won a Top Tool award), except this one has a 1-3/4 hp motor and 30″ rip capacity. This new saw features the same heavy-duty cast-iron table, steel cabinet, and cast-iron trunnions (which mount to the cabinet rather than the top, for easy adjustments), as well as top-notch dust collection. And, of course, it includes SawStop’s patented blade-brake safety system. Weighing just 367 lbs in its basic configuration, this left-tilt saw will sell for $2,299. It includes an aluminum T-square-style rip fence, but a traditional Biesemeyer-type fence is available. Also available as options are 36″ and 50″ rip capacity fences and rails, as well as a mobile base integrated inside the cabinet or an industrial mobile base the cabinet sits in. For more information, go to sawstop.com or call 866-SAWSTOP.

Just in time, my vanity is complete

Last night I put the final finishing touches on the vanity table I’ve been building over the past few weeks. And good thing—because this morning it left on its way from Iowa to Indiana. I built this as a gift for my niece, who graduates this weekend from high school. When I offered to make something for her, she chose a vanity table and wanted it painted white. So this project led me into several areas (and skills/lessons learned) I’ve not gone before.

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General International launches U.S. office, new tools

On Day 2 in Tennessee I traveled down I-24 to Murfreesboro, the new home of General International USA. This company is now the sole distributor for all woodworking tools, machinery, and accessories for General Manufacturing and General International. Those brands are still headquartered in Montreal, Canada, but distribution and customer service for the U.S. will now be handled in Tennessee. Heading up this new operation is Scott Box, most recently president of Steel City Toolworks, and formerly with Powermatic and Delta.

For those of you who might not know, General woodworking machines are made in Drummondville, Quebec, not far from Montreal. The General International line of tools is made in Taiwan to General’s specifications. This line features a full complement of stationary and benchtop machines.

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