Chris Marshall interviews Rob Johnstone about the latest DVD in the “Way to Woodwork” series produced by Woodworker’s Journal.
Chris Marshall: How important is the table saw to today’s woodworking, when compared with other shop machines?
Rob Johnstone: The proof in the pudding is how many woodworkers center their workflow around a table saw. If you look at home shop woodworkers, even those who are not heavily invested in stationary power tools usually have a table saw of some sort in the mix. At one point in time you could get a pretty good argument going between woodworkers by proposing that a radial arm saw was a better tool to build your woodworking shop around — but that argument has been put aside by the facts on the ground. Woodworkers really like their table saws. (I know that I like mine!)
Chris: When did the production process begin for “Mastering the Table Saw?”
Rob: It was in the early planning stage back in January of 2014, we got serious about the script in March, and we were on set shooting in June. Making this sort of instructive video is a collaborative process that needs a significant amount of evaluation. JoJo Liebeler and I make a good team, and that really helps. She is especially good at taking a concept that I think is important and figuring out how to demonstrate it well.
Chris: With a machine as versatile as the table saw, was it challenging to present the scope of what it can do and how it should be used safely and effectively in a limited video timeframe?
Rob: Yes, that was a challenge! We certainly did not want to shirk on the basics, especially safe operating techniques, but we also wanted to show how to really get the most out of a table saw … to wow the viewer and get at least a couple of “Whoa, I didn’t know that!” moments. I think we got the balance right, but I am looking forward to feedback from our viewers in that regard. I can count on them to let me know how we did!
Chris: Did the topic of this video come about as a response to WJ reader questions or concerns they have about table saw use? Or, was it more a logical “next step” in “The Way to Woodwork” library?
Rob: Perhaps a little of both … After taking a look at the quality of instructional video available around the Internet on the topic of how to use a table saw, I got a little concerned. There is some good info out there, and some really not-so-great stuff. And, of course, if you are a newbie to woodworking, how can you tell the difference? (Unless the video is made by some dude named Nine-Fingered Fred.)
In addition to that situation, what is out there is often short lessons that assume some knowledge or just show a single technique. Our Way to Woodwork series teaches both practical techniques and theory, and tries to do that in the context of a practical and entertaining video. So we not only teach how to do something, but why we consider it the best and safest way to do something. And for the novice or expert, the Woodworker’s Journal has a proven track record of trustworthy information. This DVD continues that tradition.
Chris: Share a couple of clever techniques viewers will learn when they watch this video.
Rob: One quickie is how to test the alignment of your saw blade to the table’s miter slot and the miter slot to the fence using a sliding fence on your miter gauge and a playing card. Another is how to form cove-shaped moldings on the table saw. There are a host of other tips, but those two are super handy.
Chris: Will viewers also learn how to maintain and tune up their table saws in this video?
Rob: We don’t spend much time on that topic in this DVD because we have a DVD-ROM that covers it in-depth, the “Power Tool Maintenance” DVD-ROM. With that said, we do spend some time talking about the various components of a table saw.
Chris: What makes a new table saw DVD important these days, since so many others already are on the market?
Rob: Like many woodworking topics, how to use a table saw safely is one that has a good bit of misinformation around it. In this DVD, we address safety in a very down-to-earth manner that not only explains how to use the saw safely, but explains what might go wrong and how to avoid problems developing in the first place. So, while this video is not addressed specifically to beginner woodworkers, it would be an invaluable introduction to the topic. With the safety message underlying the whole DVD, a really beneficial aspect to the video is that we teach and demonstrate techniques from ripping and crosscutting, to complex joinery — explaining how to get the absolute most from a woodworker’s table saw. After all, it is the centerpiece of most woodworker’s shops: they really should get every bit of mileage from the tool possible.
Chris: What makes our new WJ table saw video a standout product, in your opinion?
Rob: It’s practical, educational and entertaining. It may not sound earth-shattering, but this DVD, and really all of our videos in our Way to Woodwork collection, communicate woodworking information in a way that combines theory and practical how-to steps in a way that makes it crystal clear. A woodworker can put our techniques into practice with confidence, doing them safely and with good results right from the get-go. And we build on our instruction in a logical and systematic way.I thank my co-host, producer and script writer JoAnne Liebeler for that clarity and attention to detail. She cut her teeth in the how-to video world on television, and her insights lifted this project from good to exceptional. It’s so easy for someone with years of experience on a tool — like me with the table saw — to just skip over an important point or nugget of information, but JoJo has a great eye for those slippery details. In addition to that, she brings humor and fun to the set that helps make the video just that much better — she is the best.
I know I am running off at the mouth about this, but the way that we teach techniques, teach about what sort of jigs and accessories are out there which add to the scope of what you can do on your saw; that is really valuable. But then we finish up with a really practical and beautiful woodworking project, that employs almost everything that we’ve demonstrated in the video! And we build it doing all the joinery on the table saw. (Yup, I said ALL the joinery.)
Chris: Who should buy this video? Is it important primarily for those just getting into woodworking and buying/using a saw for the first time, or is there content here that will even appeal to a long-time table saw user?
Rob: I think that old hands at woodworking will find this video very useful. Just the chapter on specialty cuts, blades and jigs is worth the price of admission. And I bet that they will find out that they have a bad habit or two that might be worth changing to keep their fingers safe. Those new to woodworking will find the early chapters on the basics a great way to get up to speed and to develop confidence with the table saw. But in truth, and I am more than a bit biased, I think that this DVD will be beneficial to any woodworker who uses a table saw. And that is a lot of woodworkers!