Huge advances in woodworking technology
Not much actually changes in woodworking, which is both reassuring and, if you are a woodworking journalist, a bit frustrating. SawStop’s blade-braking technology was one of those rare sea changes a few years back, forcing the rest of the industry to add better safety equipment to their tablesaws.
But if you look closely, you’ll recognize two other revolutions going on, both inherited from the industry at large and finally adapted for the small-shop woodworker. FWW offers full reports on both of them in our next annual Tools & Shops issue, on newsstands around Nov. 1.
The first blockbuster story for small-shop woodworkers is segmented cutterheads. Available as an option for all types of new planers, jointers, and combo machines, and as retrofits for existing machines, these spiral arrays of small carbide cutters spell the end for nicks, tearout, and frequent blade changes.
We’ve all struggled through the process of removing steel knives, sending them out for sharpening or buying a whole new set, and then attempting to put them back in place perfectly, at the exact same level, only to see them get nicked by the third or fourth board we mill, leaving tracks until the next blade change. And we’ve all left dull, tearout-prone knives in place for far too long, just to avoid the changeover process.
Enter the segmented cutterhead. The best of these have four-sided carbide teeth, all indexed precisely into place, so you can loosen each one with an Allen wrench, give it a twist, and watch it drop precisely back into place. But you won’t have to do that for years in some cases, since carbide holds up dozens of times longer than steel. And there are four sharp edges on every tooth!
But there are a number of variations on the segmented cuttehrhead, as machinery manufacturers scramble to jump into the game. Our torture test in the next issue tells you which variations are leading the way, which new machines have them, and how to retrofit them onto the machines you already have.
Dust collection grows up
Since the government declared wood dust to be a known carcinogen, our little corner of the woodworking industry has struggled to upgrade their outdated equipment. Those old dust collectors with pourous 30-micron bags were probably worse than having nothing at all, since they acted more like fine-dust delivery systems, blowing out a cloud of the most dangerous particles at head height! Manufacturers finally discovered pleated filters, which pack in much more surface area for much finer filtration without killing airflow and suction. But those were only a first step.
Today’s compact cyclones, aftermarket filters for everything from shop vacuums on up, and new dust separators that keep those fine filters clean and free-flowing, are big news for woodworkers at every budget level. Our new report in the Tools & Shops issue tells the truth about filtration and cfm numbers; shows which dust separators keep filters the cleanest; and identifies the best products for keeping your shop air, and your precious airways, clean and happy.
And check out my recent blog about the cart I made to turn my Dust Deputy and shop vaccum into one compact, maneuverable unit.
The cyclone is the best way to collect dust, and a new breed of compact models, like this $800, 1-1/2-hp Grizzly with state-of-the-art filtration, brings this unmatched technology to hobbyist budgets.
HEPA filters (the best there is) have long been available for all types of shop vacuums, but until now they have clogged quickly, killing suction. Enter the dust separator. Oneida's new Dust Deputy is one of the latest, and is remarkably effective at trapping dust and keeping the filter clean.
If you are in the market for a new shop vacuum, consider the Bosch Airsweep. You can order it with a HEPA filter, and it has a built-in filter shaker so you don't have to add a dust separator to keep the suction strong.
Byrd's shear-cutting Shelix is one of a growing array of segmented cutterheads available for new and old jointers and planers. The carbide edges will last 20 or 30 times longer than your steel knives, and there are four edges on each tooth! Plus they are a cinch to rotate and reposition.