Complete shop in one $200 tool
If you are ready to dip your toe into woodworking (for the record, hands work better) but don’t already have a bandsaw and tablesaw, consider the mighty BladeRunner, from Rockwell. It is basically a jigsaw mounted upside-down in a table, a trick carpenters have been doing for years, but it includes a host of helpful features you could never match in a shopmade version.
The blades change out easily, there is a smart combo blade guard/guide, and the miter gauge works in two directions for both ripping cuts and crosscuts and all the angled cuts in between. Being a jigsaw, it also makes curved cuts of all kinds. And it is completely portable, meaning you can stow it easily and set it on your benchtop only when you need it. All this for $180, direct from Rockwell!
I tried it out in my shop, and it worked great, with just a couple of caveats. One is that you’ll need to replace the stock blade to get good results. It’s easy since the saw accepts all Bosch-style t-shank bits. I tried a few and got perfect cuts with a Bosch blade (from Home Depot) designed for hardwoods that was rated on the package as a 4 out of 5 for smooth cutting (vs. speedy cutting). The other caveat is that any jig saw cuts more slowly than a tablesaw or bandsaw, but if you are a hobbyist woodworker with limited space and cash, I think speed is an easy tradeoff.
I think this tool is especially great for small projects, like boxes. With one of these, the Getting Started workbench, and a few hand tools, you can build almost anything you can imagine. OK, throw in a handheld drill and a rouuter, and you will be all the way there. And then you can stow your entire shop on the shelf below the workbench!
The BladeRunner lets you make all types of woodworking cuts in one small, portable, very affordable package. And you can install other types of blades to cut metal and tile too. There is a wall mount, seen here, but I found the tool to be more useful sitting on a tabletop.
My first tip is to change out the blade. Buy high-end blades (still cheap) and you'll get better results. Look for a hardwood-cutting blade that has a good combination of speed and smooth cutting. A lever in the tabletop makes it easy to change blades. Be sure to press the blade down firmly in the saw to get it to seat properly.
The very smart blade guard does three things: it guides the blade, it keep your hands clear, and it presses down on the workpiece to dampen vibration. But you need to set it properly for your lumber thickness, which is quick and easy. Read the instructions.
The miter gauge is also smart. Note how it can slide onto the table in two directions. I slid it in sideways here as a rip fence.
And check out the quality of cut! Today's smooth-cutting jigsaw blades are better than ever. And this is 1-3/8-in.-thick hardwood.
Being a jigsaw, the BladeRunner can of course make all kinds of curve cuts. Use a narrower blade for very tight curves.
One other tip: The BladeRunner's table is small, so you'll need additonal support for big workpieces. I found that the tool works best on a low table, with a simple support stand clamped on to it.