Latin, Skil, RASs, Modifications, Safety and Typos

Latin, Skil, RASs, Modifications, Safety and Typos

Latin Lover 

The Latin and Greek phrases that showed up in issue 221 Feedback prompted this letter from a reader whose shop banner reminds him how important it is to keep all 10 fingers intact. – Editor

“I have a banner in Latin on my workshop wall. The translation is essentially ‘Begin the work with ten – complete the work with ten.’ It’s a great reminder every time I enter the shop.” –  Roy Mitton


“I just finished reading Michael Dresdner’s industry review of the Skil tool company and thought you’d be interested in hearing about my Skilsaw. I received my Skilsaw from my father when I bought my first house. It’s a worm-drive with a six-and-a-half-inch blade (diamond arbor of course), and it weighs a ton. The saw still works great although I need to replace a whiny bearing. The brushes have been replaced a couple of times, which isn’t bad considering my father bought this saw while he was a Navy Seabee in 1950. Now that’s a quality tool.” – Carl Lakatos

“On the other end of the size scale at Skil was a small saber saw with a barrel grip and a non-tilting base. It was compact and had sufficient power to get most tasks done, and it got into places today’s saws won’t go.” – Carl Anderson

Although the article gave a brief account of the early history of the portable Skilsaw, this reader added some history of the original Skil radial arm saw after Rob mentioned an old one he remembered. – Editor

“I know very well the radial saw you refer to. My father, John Schuler, was head of purchasing at Skil for 25 years after WWII. His good friend, Bill Topolinski, an executive V.P., bought the rights to the radial saw from Skil and left the company to produce them on his own. My dad went with him. When I was in high school, I worked one summer in the small machine shop where it was made under the name Topp Saw. Although it was an excellent machine, the Topp saw did not generate sufficient sales to allow Mr. Topolinski to make a go of it for long. The reason was that it was a back arm saw. The power head was mounted to the end of a substantial arm rather than sliding on the arm as the heads of modern radial saws do. Thus the saw could not be positioned with its back right up against a wall; rather, it needed room behind the bearing assembly and post for the entire arm and head assembly to retreat in the ready position before a cut. Pending the size of the model, this was as much as 36 inches. Skil Corp. made a wise tactical decision to sell off the rights to this technically excellent, but hard to sell machine.” – Mike Schuler

Radial Rob

Apparently, Rob is not the only one with fond memories of an old radial arm saw. — Editor

“Way back around 1972, I bought a DeWalt radial arm saw. It was the best purchase I ever made, in spite of the fact that they seem to be out of fashion these days. Thanks for a great and interesting magazine.” – Stuart Walmsley

“I couldn’t agree more. I have a nine-inch Dewalt radial arm saw that was purchased about 1950 and has been in constant use ever since. It endured 30 years of  home building plus a 10-year stint in a cabinet shop. I am now retired, but the DeWalt is not. I can’t imagine a shop without one.” – Edwin A. Powers

We certainly have well-placed readers. This one was able to provide family history on the original Dewalt radial arm saw. – Editor

“The first DeWalt radial arm saw was designed by my father, Tom Kernan III, in about 1925. Some time later, it was sold to Black & Decker. I have the third one that was made, which sports serial number E2. I asked Blacker & Decker some years ago if they had the first one. They said they did, and it had serial number E1, but that is not the first one; it is the second. The first one Ray DeWalt kept for himself.” – Tom Kernan Sr

Does She or Doesn’t She (Modify Her Tools)?

Speaking of tools, after a reader complained about our suggestion to add mounting holes to a table saw bed a couple of issues back, we asked if others modify their tools. – Editor

“I really appreciate good tools, but however expensive or inexpensive, they must perform the tasks that suit my needs. Therefore, I have drilled into and modified lots of my tools including screwdrivers, sanders, grinders, routers, router tables, drill presses and table saws. Whether it’s a $50 or $500 tool, it often needs some modification to optimize its performance.” – Bob Korpi

“I guess I am one of the idiots. I thought the tool I bought was the base to get to the tools I want. I don’t know of a typical woodworker who doesn’t in some way modify their tools.” – Ron Orr

“If you need to do it, just do it. Years ago, I needed a feeder to be mounted on my table saw, and it worked beautifully.” – Robert Wiggins

“It’s my tool. I’ll do whatever is necessary, consistent with safety, to get the results I want.” – Terry Teets

“I have no problem at all modifying my tools for my purposes. I do have a couple of collectibles that I won’t touch, but other than that, I own them to use them as I see fit.” – Ace Karner

“If the table in question is out of warranty, then I say do whatever works. I made a modification on a couple of tools before, one on a power tool and one on a hand tool. As luck had it, they failed. When I returned them for warranty repair they refused to do anything because I had modified them. Given that fact, I don’t modify a tool unless it is no longer under warranty, or cheap enough not to complain about.” – Brad Feuerhelm

“I wouldn’t even think of altering an antique, scarce or out of production tool, but new tools are fair game. Many new hand tools are little more than a kit of parts needing fine-tuning and finishing touches anyway. As for my power tools, almost all of them have been modified to enhance performance, usability, and or safety.” – Art Gass

“I say modify away. Lots of times I can save big bucks by drilling a few holes and repurposing a tool.” – Mike Taylor

“No tool is above or beyond modification after the warranty is up. Tools are to be used, and sometimes a modification is done to improve the usefulness of a tool. The only tools I would hesitate to modify would be collector’s items. Even then I might have to think long and hard if the modification would help me accomplish the project.” – Robert Finley

“A table saw is subject to customization to suit the user as long as safety is not compromised. Just because a saw is a big ticket item does not mean it’s perfect for every user out of the box. We all make fixtures from wood to improve its utility and are comfortable with that. Some are also comfortable working with metal and can improve what they have. That’s fine, too.” – Rich Bonvouloir

“I’m going to agree with the editor on this one. My tools are just that. If I come up with a modification that will help me work better and it is safe, I’ll make it, with the emphasis on safe.” – Dave Morgan

Smoke Detectors Can Fail

In an answer to a reader’s question, we said that smoke detectors can be set off by wood dust, but that there are detection systems that will ring in a remote spot. A certified protection professional added this. – Editor

“Yes, a smoke detector is almost certain to false alarm from the dust in your shop. Eventually, it will get clogged up with dust and then not work from an actual fire. The best-suited sensor for a shop is a heat detector. A smoke detector is rated for a coverage area of up to 1,000 square feet where a heat detector covers up to 2,500 square feet at about a tenth of the cost of a commercial grade smoke detector. A heat detector is strictly a switch and does not require any power to operate, but this also means it doesn’t contain a sounder. However, it can be connected to most residential alarm systems that have a zone designated for fire.” – Fred Zagurski

Typo Corner

This time, the typo corner sports two of our own typos, brought to our attention by our alert readers. The first, in an apparent effort to keep the typo ball rolling, even added his own typos in his letter, morphing tool into “too”and creating the charming term “miss cut,” which we must admit vaguely reminds us of some old Miss Makita posters. Perhaps this typo thing is contagious. – Editor

Bench becomes Bend

“In your tool review, would you please tell me what a ‘6-inch bend grinder’ is used for? Is it used to straighten miss-cut boards?” – Bill Covington

Tough Love

“The description below the heading for the cherry sideboard reads ‘This striking sideboard will add a tough of elegance to your home.’ It appears in the bar highlighting the Digital Version of Woodworker’s Journal.” – Jim Clark

It seems our readers are offering us a touch of tough love. – Editor

Posted in: