So, a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Ralph Bagnall, the Consulting Woodworker, asking if I could review a set of tools. Hey, I’m always up for a challenge, so I said sure.
After a few days, I had forgotten all about the exchange. That’s when my wife called me at work to tell me that I had received a big box, and that I had to move it myself. It was heavy.
When I opened the box, I was stunned. I had gotten a master set of the the Magswitch magnetic hold down jigs, and I was amazed at just how much came with it. My first impression was that this was the Swiss Army Knife of woodworking jigs.
The Magswitch system is based around a powerful magnet that you can switch on and off with the turn of a knob. Turn the knob to off, and you can pick the magnet up with little effort. Turn it to on, and I can drag my table saw (while up on its casters) around the shop.Originally designed for the welding and metal working community, it was only a quick leap to apply the technology for woodworkers who routinely work with cast iron and steel tools. While the magnets themselves are very useful, it’s the family of jigs that have been built around them that makes this system so flexible.
For those getting into the system to begin, you might want to go with the dual feather board. It has the two magnets built in to the fixture, and it can be easily deployed wherever it’s appropriate for your cut. Yes, you are free from being stuck with using the miter slot, so imagine using a feather board to help control a wide piece on your table saw top.
For the rest of the fixtures, you will be using the standard universal base. This plastic yellow device holds the two Magswitch units, and each of the specialized fixtures is then screwed to the base. And, what a selection of specialized fixtures. There are feather boards. And risers that allow you to stack two feather boards on top of each other for controlling tall pieces or for holding work down and in to the fence. There is a thin strip ripping jig so you can rip consistent thin strips at your table saw on the outside of the blade, not against the rip fence, which could burn the cut pieces or throw them back at you. There are high roller hold ins. There are resaw fences you can use on your band saw. It’s very impressive stuff.
Of course, you may have realized the one weakness of the kit… if you have an aluminum topped table saw or a non-ferrous router table, you are out of luck. As I was thinking this was the case, I got another package… the Universal Track tool. This heavy duty aluminum fence is lined on both sides with with hardware holding tracks so you can use the attachments in different locations. Pretty slick. Just use the included hardware, slide the bolt heads into the beefy tracks and blammo – extra use.
The one thing I would strongly recommend is picking up a box to store the system parts in, and maybe invest in a box of gallon-sized freezer bags to store each accessory and its related hardware in when you aren’t using them. There are a lot of screws, allen wrenches and other goodies you will have to keep track of – this will help keep the parts together. Also, I know no one likes to keep users manuals, but I would definitely hold on to the individual instruction sheets that come with the attachments. There truly is a bewildering array of uses for these tools, and you’ll want to refresh your memory as to how they work before you put them to use.
It’s a very interesting system for sure, and if it helps me work safer and more accurately, well, that’s a double bonus!
Magswitch jigs can also be found at many woodworking stores.