AWFS 2017 – Rollie’s Take
The AWFS conference is often the springboard for new product releases, and this show was no exception. Many vendors brought their latest pride and joy for everyone to covet.
Las Vegas in July, with its scorching temperatures and cattle-herd crowds, doesn’t sound like a place I’d want to be. But I was there for several days this past week attending the big AWFS (Association of Woodworking and Furnishing Suppliers) conference and I had a great time. The conference brings a huge number of suppliers to the woodworking trade under one roof for a week. I’ve attended a number of these shows and I can tell you without hesitation that it’s well worth enduring the heat and crowds.
The conference is often the springboard for new product releases and this show was no exception, with many vendors bringing their latest pride and joy for everyone to covet. While this is nowhere near a complete listing of the new tools at the show, here are some new products that caught my attention.
Lee Valley/Veritas had a number of cool new tools. The new Veritas Combination Plane really caught my eye. It’s a new design based on the old Stanley 45 concept and it brings the combination molding plane into the 21st century. Typical of Veritas, the best of the original concept has been retained but a host of changes make it easier to set up, more precise to adjust, and provide better support for the cutters. A full selection of beading, reeding, and fluting blades as well as a straight blade are available for the plane. The blades from Veritas’s Small Plow Plane will work with the new plane as will the original Stanley #45 blades. Too cool! The Combination Plane will be available in August.
Next on my Veritas list is an improved marking gauge. The original Micro-Adjust Wheel marking gauge has been a favorite of mine since its inception, but I always found the fine adjustment mechanism to be just a bit clumsy. The new gauge has that mechanism built into the stainless-steel rod and it’s intuitive to use, a huge improvement in my book.
Festool had its amazing mobile showroom set up on the show floor. The showroom is a tractor-trailer that unfolds into a polished diamond-plate arena of tool lust. They were demonstrating a portable edge-bander and a cordless scrollsaw with a strobe light that makes the fast-moving blade appear stationary, but the tools that really caught my attention were a trio of cordless sanders. I was impressed with the idea of an 18-volt cordless sander with a 30-minute full-power run time, but the best part was how light and handy these sanders are. They’re comfortable to hold and feel downright feather-light. A low-profile dust-collection bag seems to do a very effective job of keeping things clean. The batteries can be recharged in 30 minutes and Festool offers a 120-volt adapter that plugs in where the battery normally lives in case you need continuous sanding.
I stopped by the Legacy Woodworking Machinery booth to visit with my friend Tracy Anderson, co-owner of Legacy Tools, and while getting a tour of their impressive Maverick 4×8 CNC machine I noticed these really cool hold-down clamps. The LowPro clamps work with standard T-track rails and provide both lateral and downward pressure, and the low-profile design keeps them out of the way. One stop has high and low chisel edges to grip the stock and the second stop has a clamp with a ramp designed into the body that allows the jaw to push down and out as it tightens against the stock. I can see this being a great drill-press clamp, and of course it will work with routing chores—it’s designed for CNC work after all.
Laguna’s popular 14bx bandsaw now has a bigger brother, the Laguna Tools 18bx . More power, more capacity, in a slightly larger footprint. The saw will be available later this year.
MicroFence, the folks who bring us precision router bases for trim and micro routers, now offers work lights for their bases. The Light Ring is a series of six super-bright LEDs that surround the router motor base, creating shadow-free lighting that’s bright enough to make even the faintest inlay line visible. Hard wire or battery pack, the rings are designed for easy installation on both their regular plunge and micro-plunge bases. I see the light!
SawStop has added a number of new accessories to its tablesaw lineup. I liked the cast-iron router table that fits where the right-side extension wing normally lives on the saw. New fence rails and a small extension to the original saw table allow the router to mount in-line, providing great space utilization and a dandy router table. The fence mounts with T-slots machined into the cast top eliminating the need for outboard mounts that would interfere with the saw fence rails. Additional support from a pair of legs assures stability. A dust-collection box beneath the router table keeps things clean and has a movable dust port to accommodate any dust-collection setup.
The router lift is a four-post unit with chain drive height adjustment and a positive lock to hold vertical positioning of the router.
The whole shebang can be purchased as a stand-alone unit with a slightly larger table and mobile base if you don’t want to combine your router and tablesaw.
SawStop has also created an outfeed table that has a trio of built in rollers that can be installed in different positions on the table. The table itself can be reconfigured to adapt to specific needs. A set of support legs fold up and the table hinges down.
There were tons more cool tools to look at and we will be bringing you more good stuff from the show as well as reviews on the choicest of the lot. Viva Las Vegas indeed.