If and when it becomes commercially available, the SawStop electronic blade brake will make things safer for table saw users. The SawStop electrically isolates the tool's blade, charges it with a high-frequency signal, and then constantly monitors the blade's amplitude to detect drastic signal drops. If a finger contacts the moving blade, the finger's conductivity makes the amplitude plummet. This dramatic change triggers the Saw-Stop's brake mechanism – a piece of ABS plastic instantly rams into the blade teeth to stop the disc's rotation within a 1/4 turn. That's 3 milliseconds from 3,500 rpm to dead-stop.
SawStop inventor Steve Gass is a patent attorney and a lifelong woodworker who has a doctorate in physics. He's currently in discussions with tool companies about installing the SawStop as original equipment on new tools. While he's only tested it on a table saw, Gass says that the technology is feasible for many other types of power tools. And not only does he deserve an Editors' Choice award for his invention, but also for his courage: Gass proved the device worked, after initial tests with hot dogs, by sliding his finger into a spinning blade. He's still got ten fingers – and everybody's attention. For more information, contact SawStop, 503-638-6201; www.sawstop.com.
Spec out Table Saws on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).
Fulton caught our eye with a simple but effective new take on the ladder hook. The company puts a free-wheeling caster on its ladder roof hook, easing the balancing act of getting a ladder to the peak of a roof without snagging shingles. You lock the Rolling Roof Hook onto your ladder with a wing nut as you normally would, then roll the ladder up the roof. Once you're set up and working, tabs on the ends of the hooks protect shingles from damage. The Rolling Roof Hook sells for $15. For more information, contact Fulton Corp., 800-252-0002; www.fultoncorp.com.
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.
Milwaukee has made boring very interesting with its new Pathfinder wood-boring bit. The bit resembles a Forstner bit, except it has cutting blades on just about every surface to cut in all directions. The Pathfinder cuts irregular and curved holes as well as channels, grooves, and mortises. It even works as a countersink for bolt heads. Six re-sharpenable cutting surfaces give this bit its directional versatility and a ton of speed. Path-finders come in eight bit sizes ranging from 1/4-inch to 1 1/4 inches. Three-piece sets cost $36 to $50; five-piece sets sell for $60 to $84. For more information, contact Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., 800-729-3878; www.mil-electric-tool.com.