Tool surprises

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It’s funny sometimes how a tool can surprise you with its accuracy, usefulness and all-round performance, both in good ways and bad.

I’ve just wrapped up that roundup tool review article on cordless circular saws that I’ve been talking about lately, and the results surprised me in several ways. I can’t give you the actual results of the testing or mention names at this point, but I can tell you about some of the insights I had.

There were seven saws in the test, representing all the manufacturers you might expect. Based on reputation and personal experience I expected a lot from a couple of the saws; didn’t expect much from some others. Before even starting the actual testing, I kind of guessed at which one I’d end up liking the best.

Throughout the process my initial instincts were correct in a number of performance areas, but couldn’t have been more wrong in a few other key specs. One of the machines I thought was really going to kick some butt did little more than sit on its own. One that I thought would be ho-hum in the test ended up considerably higher. That saw I had expected to be the best in the pack? Wrong there too. After all was said and done I did end up liking it a lot, but it wasn’t the best one. And one that I thought might be in the OK-but-not-great category ended up the winner.

We tool-using animals form a lot of expectations of tool brands based on reputation, manufacturer hype and our own personal history with the brands. But until you have some true hands-on experience with them – or have the opportunity to talk with (or read the articles of) other woodworkers who have had that hands-on time – you really can’t tell how any tool is going to perform.

I guess that’s one of the best aspects of our tightly knit community. Through Woodshop News and others publications, through the excellent communication provided by online woodworking forums, and through physical gatherings like woodworking shows, guild meetings and such, we have the opportunity to learn what our fellow woodworkers like and dislike when it comes to choosing new equipment.

With the myriad choices in tools out there, it turns out that a strong community is one of the best woodworking assets of all.

Till next time,

A.J.

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