Tool Test - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Tool Test: This issue looks at a varied selection of new woodworking tools that we have had under test for the past couple of months and, as is our tradition, we are reviewing only the best of them.

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Tool Test



Vermont American (shown left) 
Woodworkers have spent upwards of $200 for an accurate pocket hole jig. Vermont American has just released their model 17184 that really simplifies the process for less than half the price. A pocket hole is the classic joinery used in fine cabinet making and is one of the most secure forms of joinery. The joint is used primarily to join gables to tops and bases with nothing visible from the outside. The VA 17184 makes this angled screw hole easy to do.


The tool is an extruded aluminum shape that has a thumbscrew clamp to secure the work piece. It comes complete with a 3/8” tapered shoulder step bit, a stop collar and a hex wrench. All you need for perfect pocket holes. The jig also comes with mounting screws to fix the tool to your workbench.

We liked the simplicity of the VA tool. The directions on the back of the package are concise and easy to follow. In no time, you can be an expert in cabinet joinery. We give it a full five star rating.
 
Ryobi
We told you in previous issues that Ryobi is coming out with new professional quality tools and we tested their latest releases. The MK2182K2 is a five star cordless combination Kit. The kit contains an 18v, 8 ¼” compound mitre saw and an 18v, ⅜” drill/driver. Two battery packs and a diagnostic one-hour charger are also included.


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Perfect Mitres
The included 40-tooth, carbide-tipped blade made smooth, chip-free compound mitre cuts that were dead-on accurate and for a cordless tool, zinged through 2 x 4s with ease.

The table rotates smoothly and has positive stops in the usual places. The mitre lock is neatly placed behind the right fence and is easy to engage. The table rotates close to 50 degrees in either direction. We liked the stock clamp that was included and mounts either left or right. A spindle lock allows for single wrench blade changing.
 
Bevels
Some compound mitre saws make it difficult to unlock and set. The Ryobi unlocks and sets with ease. A simple large knob loosens the bevel and the scale is easy to read. The tool bevels to 45 degrees left.
 
Drill/Driver
How much torque do you need? Put the Ryobi 18v cordless drill/driver into the “low” speed range and hang on. This one will drive lag screws without breaking a sweat. This second tool in the MK218K2 Combo Pack has a keyless chuck and a wide range of torque settings as well as some nice extra touches: a bull’s-eye level at the back of the motor housing; a removable horizontal level on top; and a magnetic screw holder at the base of the drill. This is great for deck or drywall installations. Ryobi has a winner on their hands with this one and it is priced under $350 at Home Depot.
 
MLCS
The MLCS name is known throughout Canada and the US for quality carbide blades, knives and bits. They are also known for their great prices. We tested a set of seven carbide Forstner bits (from ⅝” to 1 ⅜” in ⅛” increments) and were really impressed.


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The MLCS carbide both out-lasted and out-performed a comparable HSS (high speed steel) bit. (The HSS competitor bit that we tested, by repeatedly drilling hard maple, resulted in burning the wood from friction and dullness). Needless to say, the MLCS carbide well outlasted the HSS. The cost of the carbide set is not really that much more considering the re-sharpening costs.

The catalogue model number is 9670 and they all have ⅜” shanks. The hole bottoms were flat but they do have a slight outer groove and a small centre depression.

It was nice to see (with the drill press set at a low speed) the smooth shavings coming out in one unbroken curlicue.
 
The Forstner Problem
Forstner drill bits are short. Their nominal length are around 3 ½” and that limits the use of them. The 9270 5” MLCS Drill Bit Extender allows you to drill to about 7” and this is really an advantage, especially for outdoor projects involving 6 x 6s.

Although recommended for drill press use, the bit configuration allows you to use a portable drill on low speed at the start and then progressively increase it. The extremely sharp outside cutters do a fine job, even on green lumber. The Bit Extender comes in a package that has two sets of setscrews (as they are easy to lose) and the shank of it is a tad less than the ⅝” bit.

We give the MLCS carbide Forstner bits and the 5” Drill Bit Extender a full five stars.
 



Graham McCulloch
GRAHAM McCULLOCH is a woodworker and writer living in Halifax, NS
(902) 479-0221
www.shortcuts.ns.ca