Category Archives: Tools

I cut the line

So, this year, I have finished one large project that required me to make accurate cuts on plywood. Now, you can try to do this on a table saw, but I will warn you that a 4 x 8 sheet of 3/4 inch plywood tips the scales at a hefty 80 pounds – give or take.

That's one way to carry plywood...

And, it’s pretty cumbersome to maneuver around on a table saw top, so maybe that’s not the best way to go for breaking down the panels. Unless, of course, you build a set of infeed and outfeed tables, work holding devices and other items…

Table saw cutting

To defeat this problem, you can go with a portable tool. The easiest way to do this would be to either strike a line and try your skill, use a batten to cut against or build a jig like the sawboard I built a few years back.

My old sawboard

Those are swell, and certainly easy on the wallet, but unless you are super duper careful, your hand can wander.

That’s when the track saw was invented. Introduced by Festool, these babies are awesome, and can break down sheets of plywood with ease and no splintering.  In fact, when my friend Paul and I built his home office, we turned to a Festool track saw for all of the critical cuts, making building all those boxes a breeze.

Paul working the track saw

However, are those babies ever spendy. Fortunately, other companies have jumped into the fray, offering high quality track saw systems at a fraction of the price of the originals.

But, what if you don’t want to go uber cheap, but still want to get the best cuts possible? Or, maybe you want to build a track setup for a battery operated circular saw?  What then?


How about something simple like this Bora saw plate?  This baby will set you back about $30, but gives awesome results, especially when paired with one of the company’s guide track clamps. It’s easy to set up on a circular saw – it took me all of five minutes – and gives surprisingly good results for the money.

Adjusting the width

First, you have to set the width of the clamp setup, which is a piece of cake with a built-in edge clamp. Just snug the right edge to the clamp’s right side, then slide the adjustable left jaw until it just touches the left side of the clamp.

Ready to go

The saw fits in nicely with a few screwed down clamps on the front and side of the base plate of the saw.  This baby is now ready to cut, and you can line up the edge of the clamp with your marked line to ensure an accurate cut time after time.

As you will also notice, this saw is battery powered. Again, can’t stress that enough. If you find yourself away from your shop trimming things down to size, this thing could be worth its weight if not in gold, then certainly in Oreos. And cold milk.


Visual. Stunning.

It took me some time to realize this, but a blog just isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit without pictures. Lots of them. Sometimes, the story can be told simply by photos alone, with maybe just a few words sprinkled in to describe things.

Well, for the past – I dunno – forever, I have been relying heavily on a series of cameras that sorta lacked in the photo capability department.


Things changed about a year ago, when I upgraded to a Sony Xperia Z1 smartphone. Sony took the time to put a sweet camera on this baby. The colors look much better, the photos look a whole lot more crisp, and well, things look a whole lot better.

Sony Xperia

And, this camera is great because it’s always on me. Which makes it convenient. But, there are times when I want to get some better shots. Maybe zoom in a little bit. Maybe get things a little more crisp.

Well, Santa arrived early this year with a new Sony Alpha5000 mirrorless compact system camera.

The new Sony

This thing is the BOMB.  Similar to a professional DSLR camera, it has an enormous photo sensor and takes an incredibly impressive photo.  How impressive?  Well, I took these, just goofing around with the silly thing….



I am hoping that as I get to learn the camera a little better, I will be able to take even better photos for the blog, and better photos for the family. Right now, I’m working primarily on full automatic mode, but the camera does allow for some DSLR type customization, and I can swap out lenses. Plus, it records video!  Woo hoo!

Now, I just need to learn how to use the silly thing…

Rollin, rollin, rollin…

My new table saw is awesome. Seriously. I have been loving the heck out of it for the past week or so, and if it performs half as well as it has already, it will easily be the last table saw I will ever have to own.

But, as I had stated when I posted about it originally, it has two small flaws. First, the wheels on it are not designed for the saw to be moved around a lot – they are more for the occasional shift to sweep up behind the saw every so often. And, the top of the saw is about a good inch and a half short of my bench top. Since I use my bench as an outfeed table, that is a problem.

The PortaMate 2500

Fortunately, my friends at HTC Tools heard my cry for help, and suggested that I try one of their new PM2500 rolling tool bases to make my saw a little more mobile.

The package arrived at my house, and I could tell it was heavy duty without having to open the package. This sucker weighed a ton – betraying the fact that it was made out of heavy duty metal.

The kit consists of four corners – two to hold the front swiveling casters and lifting mechanism, and two to hold the fixed rolling casters in the rear. These corners are held together by pieces of heavy-duty steel bars with holes drilled in them, allowing you to create bases as small as 12 x 12 inches to as large as 36 x 36 inches. They are held together with nuts and bolts, and give a good purchase.

The base, assembled

It took me less than an hour to assemble the base to accommodate the table saw’s footprint. I had to go with 20 x 21 inch base, which meant I didn’t have to bolt together bars to make up the distance. The assembly could have gone a little faster had they increased the size of the diagram, but with my cheaters and a little squinting, I had it all together after a little bit.

Alone, the base raised my saw about half an inch above the floor. Given that the rails extended up 2 inches above the platforms on the corners where the base rests, I figured I could cut out a 3/4 inch plywood platform to set down first, to get me close to the benchtop height. Cutting the platform was easy with the saw, and once I had it snugly in place, it was time to get the saw onto the base.

With a plywood deck

Now, I’m not going to joke with you.. the saw is heavy. But, with some muscle, I was able to wrestle it onto the base with only a minimal amount of cursing. On its new base, the saw glides easily around the shop. When I have the saw where I want it to be, a simple flip of the lift pedals on the front casters and the saw sets down on a pair of rubber feet mounted at the end of a bolt. This is a standard arrangement for this kind of stand, and it allows the saw to sit firmly on the shop floor.

Perched atop the base

With the new base in place, it’s going to be easy to move the saw where it needs to go when I have to move it, and get it out of the way when I don’t.

A new launch

I don’t know if you heard, but last week, I went over to the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday to catch the launch of the brand-spakin’-new Orion crew module. And, if you followed the news, you probably saw that it was scrubbed. Bummer, because the family and I headed over from our home here in the Tampa Bay area at midnight to get there at 2:30 a.m. … and the sucker didn’t launch. And, we had to drive the two and a half hours back home – on very little sleep – and pretty disappointed.

Orion Launch

But, the next day, that sucker headed to the skies on the first attempt. The launch of this new capsule marked the start of a new era in space exploration.

The saw package

Surprisingly, the same day Orion left the launch pad, a new piece of technology arrived at my shop, shipped in a large crate and a smaller box shrink wrapped to a pallet. It you bet, it was my new Laguna Fusion saw.  I broke away the packing like a man possessed, trying to get to the new saw contained within. I almost felt a little like the dad in the movie A Christmas Story, attempting to get to his major award

It's a major award!

There, contained within a very well packed case was my brand new Laguna table saw. It was gorgeous, with that beautiful Laguna logo on it. But, it obviously still needed a little bit of assembly before it was ready for prime time.

Without wings

Early on Saturday morning, I set out to make the new saw a reality. While I was attaching the wings and rails, the new owner of my old Ridgid saw showed up to pick up his new-to-him saw. It took a little bit of muscle to get to the old Ridgid onto his pick up truck, but I waved goodbye to my old friend as it rode off to its new home.

Bye, old saw

The new saw set up beautifully, but there were a few ‘issues’ I had to deal with. First, while there were awesome brackets to hold the rip fence, there was no place to hold the miter gauge on the saw that I could see. So, I used a pair of Magswitch magnets to make a bit of a landing area for the miter gauge on the saw. They worked well, and I didn’t have to do any drilling.

My magnetic solution

The other issue I noticed was that while the saw does come with a pair of casters, they are kind of difficult to use on a regular basis – they are more for moving the saw out of the way on occasion to get behind it to do some sweeping. I tend to move my saw around a lot, which means I need to think of a better solution. Also, the saw is about an inch and a half too low for my bench, which can present a problem for me. Right now, one of those sweet HTC mobile bases looks like the right solution.

The final sawOutside of those two small quibbles, this saw is a dream. It cuts beautifully. It’s much more quiet than my old saw. It is built like a tank. Its fit and finish is second to none. It doesn’t allow for any dust to get out into the shop. The large paddle stop switch is very convenient.

And, it just looks awesome!

I am looking forward to this new era of table saw cutting in my shop.

I pulled the trigger…

What were you doing back in 2001?  I was the dad to a three year old, with a new little one on the way. I was moving into the woodworking hobby with zeal. I had totally outgrown the bench top Delta Table Saw, and I laid my money down on a sweet Ridgid 3612 contractor saw. It passed the nickel test. It cut straight and true. It served me well.

But, saw technology has improved, with better safety systems and improved dust collection. Plus, a more powerful saw can’t be a bad idea. So, after great deal of reading, research and asking a ton of questions, I decided to go with the Laguna Fusion 10″ saw.

Laguna Fusion saw

What was it about this saw?  I love the 36 inch rip capacity, the built in wheels and the highly rated riving knife and blade guard. The dust collection system is top notch. And, I love the large paddle power switch.

And, ultimately, I have really loved my Laguna band saw. Now, you will notice that I no longer have the Laguna logo on my site as a supporter. Our original agreement for the band saw has come to an end, but that band saw still trucks along, totally bulletproof. The fit and finish it impeccable. And, the saw has power to spare.

If this table saw is half as good as that band saw, I know I have bought the last table saw I will ever need.

Besides, today is my birthday. So, it’s just the perfect gift for me!

Starting to think upgrade

I remember my first table saw. It was a Delta benchtop model that made all kinds of noise, had a 12 inch rip capacity and could barely hold a setting. I built some projects with it, and it was a definite step up from trying to cut everything with a circular saw.

My old Delta

Once I reached the capacity of that saw (which took no time at all), I stepped up to the saw I have – my Ridgid 3612.  It has been my trusty companion for the past 14 years, and we have built a ton of projects together. I’ve ripped and crosscut with it. Cut box joints. Dadoes and grooves. We’ve been inseparable, and it works well in my shop.

I’m beginning to wonder, however, if perhaps it might be time to upgrade the saw. There are some features of the saw that definitely mark it as dated. For instance, it has an old-style splitter instead of a riving knife. While I haven’t had a lot of issues with kickback, it has happened. I know that the new style riving knife design shortens the distance between the back edge of the blade and the splitter, reducing the likelihood that a kickback will happen. Plus, the fact that the riving knife rises and falls with the blade means that I can leave it in for non-through cuts (grooves and the like), meaning it will spend less time off the saw.

A traditional splitter

A riving knife

The newer saws also have shied away from the old-style open contractor style bases. My 3612 is wide open, and it took some wrangling to fit a dust chute onto the saw to control the dust that falls out from the cuts. The motor also sits out of the back, leaving a gaping hole where dust can still pour out from.  Newer designs – known as hybrid saws – have enclosed cabinets and much better dust collection, meaning less vacuuming after a session with the saw. Plus, with the motor inside the footprint of the saw’s cabinet, I can wheel the saw closer to my bench to serve as an outfeed table.

The back of a hybrid saw

So, I’m looking. The saw will definitely have to have a mobile base – that’s non-negotiable. And, it has to be able to spin a dado stack, which eliminates many of the portable jobsite saws. I also don’t think I need to go to 220 volts for the saw. That would make for a pretty expensive wiring job, and I have been managing with a 110 volt model for the past 14 years with few issues.

The Ridgid 4512

Honestly, I am looking very closely at another Ridgid saw. The current offering, the R4512, is a hybrid model complete with a mobile base, excellent dust collection and some very good reviews. However, I have looked at a few other models. I’m not sure where this is going to take me, or if I will even pull the trigger after doing a more thorough evaluation, but I will certainly be doing my homework on this one.

After all, I plan on getting at least another 14 years out of this sucker!

The saw’s at hand

Remember a few weeks ago, when I was lamenting the lack of a panel saw for my Dutch tool chest? Well, I’ve got that handled now…

The saw in its box

That’s because this arrived from the folks at Pax Saws. They sent over one of their 22″ crosscut saws for the tool box to help round out my tool collection, and I have got to tell you, this is a very cool saw.

Handle up close

First, I like the look and the feel of the handle. It’s a two-toned beech model, and it comes to the hand comfortably – far better than many of the other saws I have held over the years. The blade is a sweet piece of steel, the plate true and the teeth very sharp.

Plus, with its smaller size, it will easily fit into my tool chest, something I was able to accomplish with a few pieces of pine and a couple of screws.

Tucked away in the lid

But, how does it cut? An excellent question, since even the prettiest saw isn’t worth a darn if it won’t cut. To check it out, I grabbed a piece of oak, and struck a line down it.

The test materials

The saw cut beautifully, with that rhythm you grow accustomed to hearing when someone is using a well-tuned saw. Now, I was trying to cut this on a surface that was too high, so the blade did wander on me. Which means, for sure, I’m going to have to build myself a lower saw bench. But, for the first cut with the saw, not too shabby…

The cut end

It’s nice finally having the tool chest finished out – exactly one year to the date that I put the finish on it. If the tool chest serves me as well in the coming years as it has already, I’m going to enjoy my time with it.