Earning their keep - Woodshop News

Earning their keep

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One of my favorite TV shows is “Good Eats” on the Food Network. Most regular readers of this blog know I like to cook, but this particular cooking show offers some woodworking insights.

Alton Brown, the host of the show, spends as much time discussing the science and mechanics of cooking as he does sharing recipes (the recipes, in fact, are usually there just to illustrate scientific principles). He discusses cooking tools a lot, and has a general rule regarding what he called uni-taskers, tools that serve only one purpose. With the exception of a fire extinguisher, he allows few uni-taskers into his shop – er, I mean kitchen – and for good reason. Tools that do only one thing take up valuable space; better to have tools that do multiple jobs. Brown does make a few exceptions. A garlic press does but one thing, for example, but it does that one thing so well and takes up so little room that he allows it.

Most woodshops have numerous uni-taskers taking up room. Miter boxes, dovetail saws and mortising chisels are all uni-taskers, but they’re essential and take up little room. A benchtop mortiser is also a uni-tasker, but if you do a lot of mortises it can be so essential that it earns the space it needs.

I bring all this up as I begin the review process for an article on those plunge-cut saws I mentioned in last Friday’s blog. They’re portable circular saws at heart, and as such can do a number of tasks, but that’s not what they’re really for. If you already have a circular saw – or are considering buying one – you probably wouldn’t consider one of these admittedly expensive tools. And like a mortiser, they take up some room. The guide tracks they ride on can be very long to accommodate sheet stock (one manufacturer offers a guide track more than 16’ in length), so storage can be an issue.

But if you regularly break down sheet goods, you’ll quickly learn that short of a big sliding table saw, these plunge-cuts saws can turn an often onerous task into a breeze. Further, the results of these fine-cut saws can sometimes be better, and are certainly faster, than using a table saw, plus they can be used where a table saw can’t. I can’t keep these review samples, unfortunately, but I’ve added one to the top of the list of tools I want to buy when the funds become available.

Yeah, they’re uni-taskers in my book, so Brown would probably turn his nose up at them. But like that uni-tasker fire extinguisher and mortiser, I think they more than earn whatever shop space they take up.

Till next time,

A.J.

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