Woodworking Tools

Table Saw Splitters and Riving Knives

 If your saw is not equipped with a splitter or a riving knife you need to read this.

It is well known that a table saw's main role is to rip wood. Table saws were designed as tool to rip wood and that  is what they are best doing,  and that is what most of them are used for most of the time. The type of material you are cutting can make a big difference to your safety and the ease with which you cut wood, and to the actual wood you are cutting.

For example, if you are cutting material like plywood, MDF, hardboard, chipboard or any of the other “manufactured woods and materials” splitters or riving knives are not as critical, though they are still useful.

If on the other hand you are ripping natural woods like oak, maple, fir, pine, cherry, beech etc, for ripping these kinds of wood, whether kiln dried, green or in between, it is critical that your saw be fitted with a splitter or riving knife. If your saw does not have a splitter or riving knife you could be risking serious injury and poorer cuts and here's why.

Many of the natural woods woods have built in “tensions”. The word “tension” within a natural wood simply means that these woods, when they are cut, they can often move on their own as they pass through the blade. This is because the blade is releasing these build in tensions. 

You can't always tell if wood has a built in tension or not. Some woods are worse than other, broad leaf maple for example tends to have more tensions. These tension develop in the tree as it is growing and are magnified by branches, tree twisting, tree growing at an angle or growing on a hill and trying to grow upright. All of these features can create tensions in the wood as the tree grows.

Anyone who has ripped or even cross cut wood will remember some cuts seem to want to bind the blade, sometimes they are so strong they will actually stop some less powerful table saws. This is where the real danger comes in. The power of even a small table saw is such that it can hurl a piece of wood back at you in an instant with enough force that can cause a significant injury.

Even if the wood that has a tension is pushed through the saw, the problem can sometime create a poor, rough cut, resulting in another cut having to be made, which may be fine if you have enough wood, if not, now you have ruined a good piece of wood.

Splitters and riving knives do pretty much exactly the same thing, they help to prevent or eliminate the problem of the wood binding against the saw blade and / or the saw fence. The result of this is a much safer cut which in turn also creates a better cut.

If your saw does not have a riving knife or a splitter you can easily install one. They are available from a number of places, including Lee Valley, Rockler or even your local dealer. Click the Rocker link at the top of the page and type in splitter into the search box. The catch with installing a splitter is that the throat plate on your tablesaw may not easily accept one. The solution for this is easy, you can purchase material to make your own throat plate (and in the process you will likely make a better one that came with your saw). They are not difficult to make and the WILL make a huge difference to your ripping once you have it installed with a splitter.

Saw Stop Contractors Saw

I remember the first time I ever heard of a table saw that would stop a spinning blade the instant it started to cut a finger (or as they show in their demos, a wiener). I instantly understood the technology because it was similar to what we were using in a different industry at that time. But I recall being impressed that someone could move those principals to another industry and make a working product. And so began the Saw Stop. Our evaluation of this product was pretty much what we expected and what we have heard about the saw from on-line videos and demonstrations and talks at wood shows. But there were still some surprises for us. First of all, we were very impressed with the actual quality of the the saws. We found them to be very well made and well put together, all powder coated to a durable finish. All of these saws are well built with a variety of up-to-date innovations and working features (some of which are also found on other similar saws).

After giving the saw a good look over in terms of design and finish. The first thing we always look at is the fence system because table saws are primarily designed for ripping wood. That is their main woodworking role. The Saw Stop Contractors Saw has a very well designed fence that is easy to read and easy to adjust and will make minor adjustments with ease. We found the scale easy to ready and the fence locked solid when engaged. We liked that the Plexiglas scale adjusts slightly so that each time you switch to a different blade, if you take a moment to adjust the scale you will absolutely accurate cuts without having to measure and mark each piece. A very nice feature. We felt that for most woodworkers the 1.75 horsepower motor would be adequate and was nicely helped by the “poly ribbed V-Belt” system.




The Saw Stop people talk about the “stability” of their saws and yes, they are that. Part of this is due to the fact they weigh so much, which is a result of the actual stopping mechanism built into each saw. The riving knife system on the saw is easy to remove without any special tools, a real plus for those “other cuts” we always seem to be making. This combined with the left tilting feature makes the Saw Stop a very, very competitive saw. OK, so the way this saw works under normal conditions is that when cutting typical dry wood (kiln dried, sun dried or otherwise dried) the saw works perfectly, slamming the brakes quickly as soon as the spinning blades come into contact with.

The tougher question, is what are the drawbacks to the system, and yes, like all good things there are pros and cons. The cons – the design of the braking system means that when the blade touches anything that is a bit damp, like a human finger or hand, the brakes are applied immediately. Depending on the blade you are using at the time, this will do one of two things, either damage the blade beyond any further use, or render the blade dysfunctional, but at least repairable. That's right, repairable (hopefully). If you are cutting any piece of wood that happens to have a high moisture content, or has some dampness on it, there is every possibility that the Saw Stop will clamp the breaks and stop the blade because it has detected moisture. That is what actually stops the saw blade, when it detects a small bit of moisture, such as what would get on a finger, a hand or, some moisture on the wood you are cutting.

The braking mechanism is triggered by a certain amount of moisture. If you happen to be using a thin kerf blade, you can pretty much kiss it good bye. If it is an “industrial” type saw, with a thick wall, the blade may survive a clamping but will need to be checked at the very least. The good new is this braking mechanism can be disabled, which would need to do if you were cutting green or wet lumber.

So, at the end of the day, is this saw any good. Our answer is absolutely YES, if you can afford this saw and are aware that damp and green lumber can set it off, the Saw Stop shops are an excellent, long term investment. The Saw Stops are all high quality saws, very safe to use with their stop features.

Steel City 10" Granite Top Tables Saw 35920

Think your table saw is heavy? ... Try this granit top little gem at 467 pounds. Yes thats right, a granite top table saw. At first I wondered what would be the purpose of a granite top over steel, then it gradually began to dawn on me that first of all granite does not rust. Now if you live in Texas or New Mexico you don't have to worry so much about that but in the soggy west coast or the humid east coast rust is a real problem.

This "left tilting" table saw has a few features we really liked and Steel City is well on it's way to shaking up the market by bringing out some new and innovative features. First of all we liked the fence, yes there are are other very good fences out there, but we still liked this one. It is smooth, accurate and well built. We liked the position and size of the off / on switch. It is easy to find and easy to shut the saw down should things start going awry one day, with a BIG red paddle.

The entire saw base is enclosed except for a 4" dust port, so you really don't get a chance to see the trunion system, which is the real heart of any saw. We dug around and found a very well made, cast system that is mounted with about as much strength as one could imagine for a table saw, this system is not going to move on you once it is set.

 Its nice to see manufactures putting quakity componets into their tools and Steel City has done so with the motor a dual 110/230 volt (115/7.5 AMP) 1 3/4 horsepower motor, not the biggest in the world but certainly satisfactory for most woodworkers.

Another important factor on any saw is the blade guard and splitter or riving knife. When you are ripping wood that starts has a mind of it's own and starts move on you as you are cutting it, a riving knife is critical for your own safety. The beauty of this unit is when you need to take this assmebly off, it comes of easily, you don't have to struggle with it.

Finally, finally, finally, a manufacture who sees the value in providing a built in wheel base. Yes, the unit we tried actually comes with a mobile base.

All in all we thought this was an excellent tool, innovative enough to catch our attention and tough enough to be a tool we would want in our work shop.

DEWALT D-Handle Router DW618D

The first thing that strikes one when just looking at this router is huge  yellow “D” shaped handle. The DEWALT DW618D is a bit unique looking but was specifically designed for easy in accomplishing certain jobs. The large “D” shaped handle which includes the on/off swithch (which can also be locked in the On position). For anyone doing hand routing jobs, this unit is an edge above most others when it comes to actually holding the router. Lets not minimize that role. Imagine if you doing an edge job on a counter and trimming laminate or rounding an edge, it is VERY simple to make an imperfect cut, especially if you don’t have a good grip on your tool. DeWalt makes it easy with this tool by providing a large, easy to hang on to handle, AND an opposing smaller black round grip to make the woodworker will have all the gripping power needed.

 Lets talk a bit about the tool it’self. The version we tested was a fixed base unit, which means the depth control is set manually for each cut. We liked the idea of the micro adjustment which even gave us control of 1/64 inch adjustment. This will accommodate even the most fussy woodworker. Changing the bits in this tool means lifting the motor from the base, which, with the quick release clips made the job quick and easy. We also liked that the spindle “locked” into position so we could change bits with just one wrench.

Another important point on this router is that it does come with both ¼ inch and ½ inch collets, further the collets are what we call eight finger collets which means better grip on router bits.

 We did not try this unit it a router table, DEWALT has other routers more suited to table use, not that this unit could not be used in a table but it has been specifically designed for “job site” work and that is how we tested it.

The DW618W is a 12 amp router, rated at 2 ¼ horsepower (at maximum load, which is how all router manufactures are now rating their tools). At over 8 pounds, this router is a good solid tool because typically you do want some weight in a router to perform smoother cuts.

 All in all we found this a good solid router, not outstanding just a good solid tool for anyone doing a lot reno or job-site work.

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