One of the “perks” of my job is the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how new tools and machinery are designed, developed and manufactured. Festool invited me to its manufacturing facility in Germany a few years back, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. Recently, Delta opened its plant in Jackson, Tenn., to woodworking magazine editors to promote the launch of the company’s redesigned Unisaw table saw.
We’ll provide detailed information about the new Unisaw in next month’s issue, but here’s a quick preview: the new Unisaw has been on the drawing board for about six years; it features a one-piece trunnion, blade height and bevel cranks on the front of the saw, a rise-and-fall riving knife, a storage drawer, and a 3- or 5-hp Marathon motor; and a few extra inches have been added to the tabletop in front of the blade for greater control when cutting sheet goods. The saw will be assembled in Jackson from foreign and domestic components.
Delta has high hopes for the new Unisaw, which was introduced in 1938 as “the world’s first 10” tilting arbor saw,” according to the company. I haven’t used the saw, so I’m not qualified to give a review, but I feel pretty safe in saying the other editors were impressed with what they saw.
I came away impressed with the Jackson facility, where mostly shaft and steel machining and castings are made for Delta, Porter-Cable and DeWalt tools. The plant employs approximately 320 workers — who operate more than 1,600 machines — and runs three shifts a day, five days a week. The emphasis on quality control and parts testing was astonishing. The work force appeared to be well-trained and quite attentive to their multiple responsibilities. And I can only imagine that the cost of equipping this massive facility with so much high-tech machinery must be staggering.
So the next time I use a Delta, Porter-Cable or DeWalt tool, I’ll think back to my brief visit to Jackson and the people, machinery and investment required to make it. I wish each of you could have the same opportunity. Yes, I’ve got a good job.
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Here’s a guy who must love his job, or at least really believe in his product (and he does). A video was posted on You Tube (www.youtube.com) of Stephen Gass, president of SawStop, sticking his finger into a running saw blade to prove that the SawStop blade-stopping safety device works.
David DeCristoforo comments on this amazing act of bravado in his blog, “This Business about Woodworking” — at www.woodshopnews.com — and calls it “just plain foolish.” I’ve seen this demonstration done with a hot dog countless times, and the blade has left only a small nick in the meat. The stop-action photography on this video, shot for the “Time Warp” television series on the Discovery Channel, shows the blade stopping the instant it touches Gass’ finger. It’s an amazing demonstration, but sends an incredibly bad safety message. Rule One, as every woodworker knows, is to keep your hand away from the blade. Rule Two should be to never purposely test a safety device.
We sincerely hope you’ll follow both rules and never, ever try this demonstration yourself.
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I’ll end with a plug for The Furniture Society’s annual conference, scheduled for June 10-13 at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. For details, please see the story on Page 6.
I’ve been to six of the studio furniture group’s 12 conferences and gained valuable knowledge about running a small shop from every one. Sure, early on the conferences were a bit pretentious, with makers of three-legged chairs griping about how tough it was to make a living. But the form-versus-function debate has subsided at recent conferences, where established makers mix with those new to the profession, creating a valuable learning experience for all on topics such as marketing, pricing and technique.
While networking with your peers is probably the best reason to attend this conference, through the years it has afforded me the opportunity to get to know Sam Maloof, Garry Knox Bennett, Brian Boggs, Marc Adams, Ernie Conover and other veteran teachers and makers. To see who might be at this year’s conference, visit www.furnituresociety.org.
This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue.