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Sharpest knife in the drawer

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Tool maintenance, especially for shop machines, is often a matter of fixing, tuning or cleaning the visible. But it's what you can't see that sometimes needs the most attention.

Things like blade alignment, drill-press runout, excess vibration or even rust on tabletops is readily apparent when working in the shop because you can either feel or see the effects. Other things are not only less noticeable; they're sometimes downright invisible on a day-to-day basis.

I recently completed a magazine article on band saw upgrades, and as part of my photo shoot I partially disassembled my own saw to stage the shots. At one point where the machine was pretty much dissected like a frog in a high school biology class, I recalled that I'd bought a new blade for it. I'd purchased the blade a while back - maybe six months ago, or maybe as long as a year - and had put it away for when I got around to feeling like changing the blade, which never came. With the machine opened up and the old blade off anyway, I figured it was as good a time as any to put the new blade on. So I did, finished up my photo shoot, then reassembled and put the machine back in service.

Didn't use the band saw for several days, but when I did, great googly-moogly was I shocked to find that it cut like the proverbial butter. The old blade had gotten extremely dull, but it had happened so gradually I hadn't even noticed. It was like that eye-opening moment when you finally get glasses and realize how bad your eyes have gotten. I couldn't believe the improved performance from that new blade.

Moral of the story: Continue taking care of those visible and noticeable maintenance and adjustment chores, but never forget to check the ones you don't think about so much. The ones that get worse so gradually that you become used to their decreased performance.

And while you're at it, when was your last eye exam?

Till next time,



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