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July 31, 2009

Recommended Improvements for SawStop Tablesaw

sawstop8.jpgWell I have read all about the SawStop tablesaw and watched all the demonstrations and I like it a lot. I have analyzed this new technology carefully in light of long years of woodworking experience, some close calls, stories from friends and other legendary tales, including the guy who worked for me once making survey stakes who left his left index finger lying on the saw table. Cut it right off. Clean. They couldn't sew it back on because he was a smoker. When he got mad at somebody later and wanted to poke them in the chest to make a point, he had to use the other hand. Couldn't do that magic trick where your finger comes off anymore. Well, you get the idea.

However I think the SawStop tablesaw is missing two things and I hope somebody from SawStop reads this and takes immediate action to improve their already excellent product.

My last pick-up truck had OnStarĀ® in it to summon emergency help in case of an accident and I was not able to use my phone to call for help. If I am using the SawStop tablesaw and come that close to cutting off a finger, the saw better be calling for somebody to come and get me because I guarantee you I will be lying on the floor passed out. The good news is they won't have to sew my finger back on. OnStar for SawStop.

Secondly, it has long been a standing joke in our family that if we ever have a serious accident, you need to call for an ambulance and a Porta-John. That is the other thing the SawStop tablesaw needs, because again, even when my fingers are safe, we still gonna need it.

You will notice I did not recommend a surgical field kit, tourniquet, large bandages, ice packs to deliver the finger to the emergency room, or any of that other stuff you would need in similar circumstances on other brands.

There you have it. I know many corporations depend on feedback from experienced users to improve their products and I am happy to participate in that process. I hope you will bring your suggestions to them in the same spirit, although I cannot imagine how anyone could improve on a table saw equipped with SawStop's safety technology that's also backed up by OnStarĀ® and a Porta-John.

July 24, 2009

Going to the Dogs

I saw a video once of the guy who invented the bullet proof vest police officers wear, shoot himself in the stomach while wearing the vest. He stood right up and took out two watermelons. Pretty good proof of the usefulness of the vest.

PCS240.jpgJim Yahres left a comment on Chris's post below about the new SawStop table saw. In it he referenced a YouTube video showing the famous "hot dog" demo. At the end of the video, the host challenged the inventor to put his finger in the saw. He did. Wow!

Drop by Highland tomorrow (July 25th) and see which unlucky hot dog gets to risk life and limb on a SawStop table saw. 10:45 and 2:45 Live in the Store.

Hot dogs all over the City are crawling towards the back of the meat cooler. Inventors too.

Do Not Try This at Home!!

July 20, 2009

Router Bits

routerbitcase.jpgSometimes you just need to clean out and start over. Could be the refrigerator, the cupboard, the den, the barn, your wood shop, your life. In my case, some of those things do need to be cleaned out, but one thing I have decided to clean out and start over is my collection of router bits. In the past I bought router bits for two reasons: I thought that a proper woodworker ought to have router bits. You can't be a woodworker without router bits. The second bits I bought were pattern maker bits, the bits with a bearing on the bottom, which I used when trimming sheathing from the window openings when framing a house. Punch a hole in the sheathing and then let the bearing follow the window framing.

The first set of router bits I purchased was from a department store and has about ten basic bits in a cute little plastic box with a removable stand to hold the bits. Not knowing any better, I bought quarter inch diameter shafts with high speed steel (non-carbide) edges. I guess I got what I paid for, but they are not much.

Somewhere along the way I upgraded the router and the new one had two collets to accept quarter inch or half inch router bits. It was soon apparent that those little quarter inch steel router bits were not going to cut it, so to speak, so I started to buy a few new bits as things came up in the shop. I always made sure that any new router bits were half inch shaft and carbide edges. That is pretty much all I buy these days and life is much simpler.
cabinetmaking router bit set

As is typical for many items at Highland, there are not just a few router bits for sale. There are three walls full of all different styles, brands, profiles and sizes of router bits. You can buy sets of router bits to make kitchen cabinets. You can buy sets of router bits to make raised panels. You can buy sets of router bits to make divided light doors. You can buy sets of router bits to make crown molding.


You can buy sets of router bits to make chocolate fudge ice cream. (Well, maybe not.) But Highland Woodworking has a wide selection of router bits in a wide range of prices from several different manufacturers. If you can't find the router bit you need at Highland, you probably didn't need it anyway.

SawStop Table Saw Comes to Highland Woodworking

Every now and then a tool comes along that features an innovation so unique that it distinguishes that machine from anything else ever used anywhere. The SawStop Tablesaw is one of those rare tools that has totally revolutionized tablesaw safety in the woodworking shop, and we are proud to add SawStop tablesaws to our offering of fine woodworking machines.

The inventor of the SawStop Table Saw is passionate about preventing table saw accidents. His greatest contribution to state-of-the-art tablesaw technology is the SawStop table saw's unique safety system which stops the sawblade in less than 5 milliseconds after coming in contact with a woodworker's hand or finger.

The SawStop table saw safety system works like this. The blade carries a small electrical charge that is constantly monitored. When skin comes in contact with the blade, the natural capacitance of the human body changes the charge on the sawblade and is immediately detected by the safety system, which triggers the release of a heavy spring, jamming an aluminum brake into the teeth of the spinning sawblade. Within milliseconds the blade stops its 100 mph rotation and comes to a complete stop. After the aluminum brake stops the sawblade, the blade's centrifugal force causes it to instantly retract below the surface of the table just as the tablesaw's electrical motor shuts off.

In the 4 years since the SawStop tablesaw came on the market, the manufacturer has documented almost 600 cases in which a tablesaw operator's hand or fingers were saved when the safety system triggered.

The total cost of a tablesaw accident in which fingers are amputated has been calculated between $250,000 and $400,000, including hospitalization, medical bills, lost worktime, rehabilitation and loss of hand function, not to mention repeated painful surgeries and protracted healing time.

SawStop table saws are available today for less than $2000.

(Why wait for an accident?)

July 19, 2009

Couple Gets Engaged at Highland Woodworking's Store


Just another typical day at the Highland Woodworking store in Atlanta. Except for this: Rita Lemons proposed marriage to her woodworker boyfriend, Chester Gibbs, over in our Festool department. (Or was it in the Finishing Supplies? Okay, maybe it was closer to the Fastener department, how fitting!) For the record, Chester said "Yes!"

Friends since their college days back in the early 1980s, they first began dating this past April. Unbeknownst to Chester, Rita picked Highland Woodworking as the venue for the proposal (apparently because she knew it is a place forever dear to his heart). She enticed him into coming to the store after church today by giving him a Highland Gift Certificate for his birthday. The rest is now history. Best wishes to the happy couple!

July 16, 2009

Highland Woodworking Report from the 2009 AWFS Fair


Chris and I are just finishing up our trip to the AWFS (Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers) Fair in Las Vegas. We met with a lot of our vendors and found several new products that you'll be seeing over the next few months at Highland Woodworking.

We also met with Matt Vanderlist from Matt's Basement Workshop and Marc and Nicole Spagnuolo from The Wood Whisperer.

Marc and Nicole have been recording various parts of the show and posting them on YouTube and should be adding updates for the rest of the show.

Chris also recorded our SawStop rep doing the famous hot dog demonstration. See the video below.


July 12, 2009

Hammering for Humanity

I have been working for my local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate this week framing up houses. We nailed together four houses this week in the warehouse and we will stand the walls up on the site for a total of eight houses in a few weeks. Few people get the chance to change somebody's life as dramatically as this in such a short time.

hammers.jpg I am a fan of hammers and take every chance to look at what people select when they know they are about to do some substantial work on a house. Since we have been framing this week, everyone brought their framing hammer. Unless you are really into hammers, you may not know that you can spend just about any amount on one. Considered the top of the line is the hammer made from titanium and designed to strike with maximum force and minimum weight. Some of these high end hammers can go for $250 and more per each. Try to explain that to your wife when she can't even get you to cut the front lawn.

Framing Hammer.jpg
Highland carries a wide range of hammers, from the three and half ounce cabinetmaker's hammer

all the way up to the

twenty three ounce framing hammer. Talk about putting a nail into a stud, this one will do it. The joke on site amongst us graybeards is that the number cast into the hammer head for the weight is actually an age limit — you need to be less than 23 years old if you are going to drive that hammer all day. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful thing, and when you walk up on the site with one on your tool belt, people in the know will gasp in awe at the sight of it. These are the same people who will pour water on your face trying to revive you when you are lying flat on the ground about two that afternoon from trying to run that hammer when you exceeded the age limit clearly cast into the hammer head.

Take a look at Highland's selection of hammers, pick out one which fits you and your tasks, and then find your local Habitat chapter and give them a hand. You will be glad you did. Then go home and cut the front yard.

July 6, 2009

Liquid Wood and WoodEpox = Wooden Concrete

The customer service guys at Highland have noticed a real run on two products lately, both by the Abatron Company. The first is called WoodEpox and the other is Liquid Wood. Now when I studied concrete in college (did you know there are people who take entire college courses in concrete?), they told me that the Egyptians and Romans were the first to make extensive use of concrete in construction. Look at the aqueducts and the other major engineering projects still standing in these cultures and you can appreciate the massive use of concrete even in that time and place.

Look around you anywhere in our cities and try to picture making any kind of large structures without concrete and you get some idea of how important it is to be able to make a solid permanent shape by preparing a form and pouring in a semi-liquid. Then along comes Abatron's WoodEpox and Liquid Wood, allowing civilization to take another step forward.

With Liquid Wood, simply mix it up and paint it onto a decayed wooden surface and it will absorb into the wood and return the wood to something very close to its original condition. For instance, if you are turning a bowl and find a punky spot where normally you would put in a little CA glue to harden it up, this stuff works much better. You can sand it, cut it, turn it, shape it and paint it just as if it were the original wood. If some of the wood is missing, you apply Liquid Wood first to firm up the underlying layer and then use WoodEpox to reshape the part that is missing. The guys at the store say the mixture is about the consistency of a dry pie crust dough (don't ask me if any of them could actually make a pie) so you can shape it, make a form for it, and work it close to the finished shape before it hardens. You can also tint or stain it if you want. Then after it hardens to a compressive strength of 5000 psi (about twice that of regular concrete), you can continue to shape and sand it with regular woodworking tools until you achieve the final shape. You can paint it if you need to and it'll blend right into the surrounding work and nobody but you will ever know it's there.

The possibilities are endless, but one big usage that comes to mind (particularly in neighborhoods like the one where Highland is located) is window sills. The houses there were mostly built in the first third of the last century, and some (well, many) of the window sills are beginning to go. This stuff is perfect for repairing them — knock off the really rotten stuff, paint the rest with Liquid Wood, reshape the window sill with WoodEpox to match the remainder, prime and paint, and you are off for the rest of the weekend. How can you beat that?

The Romans would have been proud. You may even find yourself thinking about building an aqueduct next weekend.

MORE INFO ON WoodEpox & Liquid Wood

July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July from Highland Woodworking


I found a way to celebrate the Fourth which I have been smiling about for two days. I went out to supper the other night at a local restaurant out by the Interstate, and at the next table was a soldier with his wife, his two small children and his mother-in-law. Now these soldiers are all volunteers these days and it is very hard on them and on their families -- I mean are you willing to leave home for a year, live in a hole in the ground, and get shot at for $35,000 a year? The people in our military do a wonderful job and whether one believes in the politics or not should not affect our support for them. With that in mind, I asked the waitress to bring their check to me. It doesn't count if they catch you doing it, but I really hope they smiled all the way home like I did, and just maybe felt a little appreciation for their service. Welcome Home Brothers! Thanks for serving your Country. Happy Fourth of July!!