The name Rikon isn’t an acronym or an eponym, but it may soon come to mean “innovation” to American woodworkers. The five-year-old company, founded by Erin Riley, offers well-made imported tools geared to the serious woodworker. What sets them apart is their knack for pairing reasonable prices with some surprising innovations.
Rikon makes band saws ranging from 10″ to 18″, drill presses, benchtop sanders, jointers, and even a very affordable lightweight 10″ combination jointer/planer. At present, their best-selling product is a hefty 18″ band saw dripping with added features. “We try to pass along to the customer a great quality tool with a reasonable price, and loads of innovations,” explained company spokesman Steve Mangaro. “That’s how we look at each product we design. And because we work directly with just one factory that is ISO 9000 certified, we can maintain our quality control as well as our pricing.”
Their six-inch jointer, scheduled to hit the market in about six weeks, is a perfect example. It has a locking head to let you change knives without having to jam a wedge of wood into the table, and two speeds that offer both quick and smooth cutting options. The motor, which is set outside the dust shoot for better dust evacuation and access, is mounted on a hinged plate with a turnbuckle that allows you to easily change belts and speeds, and to adjust belt tension without tools.
While other jointers offer pole-mounted switches, Rikon has come up with a new wrinkle: a pole-mounted switch that is also height and position adjustable. It goes right, left, up, and down, and can be positioned either on the infeed or outfeed side of the table, a great safety feature. Their two-stage rack and pinion fence offers a full range of positions in a format that does not protrude significantly out the back. That allows the jointer to be set close to the wall, a feature sure to be appreciated by those of us whose shops are smaller than we would like.
A micro-adjusting crank handle affords one-handed positioning of the fence angle, and there’s even a tool holder for the wrenches that come with the machine. With all its features, the jointer is still competitively priced at $550, and an eight inch version is in the works that may carry even more features.
Their 18-inch band saw, satisfyingly large by most standards, is street priced at $1,000 and has two speed settings. The slow speed allows you to cut nonferrous metals as well as large pieces of dense woods. Oversize cast-iron wheels contribute to a full 18″ throat and a 12″ depth of cut. An oversized 21″ x 19″ table tilts 10 degrees to the left and 45 degrees to the right, and has two T-slots one on each side of the blade. Micro-adjusters allow you to accurately level the table to the blade, and to re-set the bearings should they go out of alignment.
Driven by a two-horsepower 220 volt single phase motor, the saw has two 4″ dust ports; one in the usual spot below the table, and another at the bottom rear of the cabinet. The blade guide sports bearings, as opposed to rub blocks or disks, and the thrust bearing faces sideways so that the race, rather than the face, is in contact with the blade. It’s got blade tracking and tension windows, a quick release blade tension lever, cast-iron hand wheels, and, like the jointer, a tool holder. On top of the case is a hoist ring, for moving this 360 pound gem.
Sold at both chain and independent stores, they use feedback from their vendors and customers to come up with the right package of extras. “We look at the tools, talk to shops and end users, talk to retailers, and add in our own woodworking experiences to see what sort of challenges face woodworkers.”
“When we talk about innovation, it is not a code word for a new color or a free mobile base,” said Mangano. “For us, it means meaningful, useful features that make the tool better and more user-friendly.”