Power Tools vs. Hand Tools, and When Can You Modify the Design?

I am continuing to work my way forwards through back issues of the since discontinued magazine Woodwork.

If you are proficient with the tools at your disposal, the decision to use either hand tools or power tools can be based on pleasure or efficiency. I use a combination of hand and power tools, and my choice is usually based on which will produce a satisfactory result quicker with less effort.

The machinery is important for sizing and rough shaping, but much of the work in the shop is done with hand planes, chisels and carving gouges. It is not a production shop; handwork is often faster than setting up jigs and machinery for an operation that will only be done once or twice.

Kristian Eshelman in Master Craftsman Robert Whitley, in Woodwork issue #41, page 34, paragraph 4

In another article, the author writes about building a piece inspired by one that he saw, but made changes to suit his needs, aesthetics, and the materials he had available.

In you can appreciate what it is about the original that is so proportionally appealing, by all means change things according to your circumstances and rely on your own eye to preserve the spirit of the original.

Graham Blackburn in A Pepysian Bookcase: A handmade case-on-stand in Woodwork issue #42, page 46, paragraph 3

Read more on my page, Quotes from Woodwork.


Review of My Grizzly Sliding Table Saw (G0623X)

A few years ago, I was in the market for a new table saw. My decision was between a sliding table saw or a SawStop table saw (you can read more about my decision process in the three articles titled Why a Sliding Table Saw with a Scoring Blade?, Why Not a SawStop? and Benefits of a Sliding Table Saw – links at the bottom of this article). In June 2010, I drove down to Grizzly’s showroom in Bellingham, Washington and had a good look at the G0623X 10″ Sliding Table Saw before ordering one for delivery. By the way, the sticker price on this saw was right around the $3,000 mark. My New Sliding TablesawI have had the saw for four years and have been really happy with my purchase. The saw was larger than my contractor’s saw with a 30″ fence, but the sliding table saw used space so well that I barely noticed a difference.

What’s So Great?

The saw was nicely made and easy to assemble and adjust. Blade changes were a snap with the arbor lock pin. The sliding table has proven to be very useful for large crosscuts as well as making straight, accurate cuts in both normally- and oddly-shaped parts. On the occasion when I’ve had to work with sheet goods, the 60″ sliding table has been a clear advantage for material support (no infeed or outfeed support required for most cuts). The five horsepower motor had plenty of power to rip thick hardwoods or cut dadoes and the scoring blade produced perfect cuts on the bottom of fine plywood and melamine. When done with the scoring blade, I simply removed it from the arbor, which was much easier than lowering it and resetting it for the next time. IMG_20141105_161634651 When dealing with many small parts such as when I made a batch of Time Warp Tool Works Moulding Planes, I was again able to benefit from the sliding table. I piled the uncut parts on one end of the sliding table, made the required cuts using the middle section of the table, then stacked the cut parts on the other end of the table itself. As I worked, all parts remained on the table which traveled back and forth as a whole, so parts were never in the way or out of arm’s reach at any point. There were two T-slots in the top and one in the edge of the sliding table that allowed the attachment of the outrigger, mitre gauge, and other accessories such as a hold down or handle. They were also useful for storing pencils and rulers (and sawdust!). IMG_20141106_111559925 Because the sliding table extended to within a fraction of an inch of the blade, I could clamp even a small part in place for cutting, then push it through the blade without even being near the part or the blade. Furthermore, the long sliding table encouraged the user to stand to the left of the blade – out of the way of the path of kickback. And yes, the saw has a riving knife too. IMG_20141105_161852448 The outrigger was clamped to the table and could be slid forwards or backwards as desired. A pivoting arm attached to the back of the saw cabinet supported the far end of the outrigger and a threaded adjustment allowed it to be levelled. The crosscut fence offered ample support for almost all cuts, and a pair of flip stops made breaking down stock efficient. IMG_20141105_161326722 The fence could be mounted at either the front or back of the outrigger, and a set of adjustable flip stops ensured that the fence could be set square time and time again. IMG_20141105_161216246 The blade tilt and height were adjusted with two well-made hand wheels with folding handles and centre knobs for locking their setting. They felt nice and worked well.


What’s Lacking?

The mitre scale on the outrigger was a decal with fat lines, so I couldn’t rely on it for accurate angles. Instead, I would use a bevel gauge to set the crosscut fence to the blade. IMG_20141105_161446122 Some of the higher-end sliding table saws had some useful features that this saw did not have, such as the option to lock the sliding table all the way forward for loading, or a switch on the sliding table. Dust collection was fair. There was an additional provision for collecting dust in the blade guard, which I elected to not use. One thing I did find out was that if sawdust was allowed to accumulate between the blade access door and the blade shroud, it prevented the door from closing properly and contacting the microswitch which allowed the saw to run. IMG_20141105_162258788-001 The saw came with a mitre gauge which could be clamped to the sliding table. I always preferred to use the larger crosscut fence and the only time that I used the mitre gauge was if I had removed the outrigger for some reason. This wasn’t really a negative, just a “do I really need this?” accessory.

Modifications and Additions

When the saw arrived in my shop, I couldn’t figure out how to lower the riving knife below the crown of the blade, so I ground some metal off of the back top of the riving knife to allow me to perform non-through cuts. IMG_20141105_161345724 My shop was quite narrow, and the crosscut fence was long, with an extension to allow even wider crosscuts. I decided to cut the aluminum crosscut fence to end where the outrigger ends. When I needed to make cuts between 37 and 74 inches, I could use the extension. (When I cut off the end of the crosscut fence, I also removed the tapped hole for the knob that locks the extension in place, so I needed to drill and tap another hole.) IMG_20141106_111233965 The extension came with a ramped stock support, but since I never cut stock long or flimsy enough to warrant it, I removed it. IMG_20141106_111325957 The crosscut fence was secured to the outrigger with a long, threaded bolt and was tedious to wind in and out when I wanted to install or remove the fence. I solved that by making a simple locking device with a lever-action clamp that fit into a T-slot in the bottom of the crosscut fence. IMG_20141105_161251418 I was glad that I bought a cam-action hold down with the saw. The saw didn’t come with the hold down and they were not sold separately. However, the hold down was included with another saw which has the same size T-slots (1-1/4 x 1/2 inch) so I ordered all the parts and assembled it myself. It wan’t cheap, but it sure was worth the price! IMG_20141106_115049828 Additional resources about this saw are provided in the links below. If you have any other questions, please feel free to submit it in the comments box at the bottom of this article.

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January 2013 Machine Shop Tour

I recently sold my thickness sander because I rarely used it and it was taking up valuable space (it was bought for one specific project a few years ago).  I haven’t taken pictures of my machine shop since 2009 when it looked much different so I figured that now would be a good time.

These first two shots give you an idea of the space I have, which is about 22 x 10 feet, with a 97″ ceiling.


Looking through the glass sliding door you can see my benchroom.  In the centre of the picture is my Laguna LT16-3000 bandsaw.  It is backed up against the glass door and six feet from the wall on the infeed side.  Behind it is my Steel City Midi-Lathe.  I have two folding workbenches hung on the wall over the lathe.


Next to the folding workbenches are four cabinets mounted on the wall.  The bottoms of the cabinets are about an inch higher than the top of my head so I can’t bump my head (when there isn’t a stack of lumber below them).  Atop the stack of lumber is my Veritas Router Table Top and a shop-made fence.  The cardboard boxes contain firewood.  On the back wall is a sturdy shelf supporting short pieces of wood that are being stored/dried.


On the right wall is my lumber rack supporting more lumber that is also being stored/dried and in front of that is my Grizzly G0623X sliding table saw (I haven’t written a review yet, surprisingly).  The saw, which is on casters, sits with five feet between the blade and back wall.  I have a yellow extension cord dangling from the ceiling; one end is strapped to the outrigger of the table saw and the other end is plugged into a wall outlet (no, I don’t have any ceiling outlets).  The extension cord supplies power to tools used in the middle of the shop.


In front of the table saw is my DeWalt DW735 thickness planer with a Ridgid Oscillating Belt/Spindle Sander on top.  The planer is on a low stand because at one time, it used to be stored under one of the tables of my Delta DJ20 jointer, which is in the background.  Behind the jointer is a large window covered by a pull-down shade.  In front of the jointer is a garbage can and more wood.


To the right of the jointer is a regular-sized door leading to the backyard buried behind long-handled garden tools in a cart on casters.  Adjacent to the little door is a pair of big doors that open South into the backyard.  In the summer months, I open these two doors and they provide enough light to allow me to work in the machine shop without turning on the overhead fluorescents.


To the right of the big doors is another window and then we’re back to the glass sliding door leading to my benchroom.


If you didn’t click the link at the top of the article, you should click it now.  You’ll be amazed at how much my shop has changed in two-and-a-half years.