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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Preac Table Saw and "The Chopper"

One of the interesting aspects for me of taking any workshop is seeing the tools that other artisans use or find helpful. Taking the class with Pete Kendall was no different, and everyone in the class (9 of us) had the opportunity to sit in front of the Preac table saw and "The Chopper."

This is the famed Preac table saw, which is no longer made. I was surprised by how small the saw was (similar to the Proxxon KS115). However, the saw is all metal construction unlike the Proxxon and Microlux, which has a plastic shell. Pete had 4 Preac table saws set up for use. What I REALLY liked about the Preac table saw, was the all metal cross cut sled the company made for the saw (pictured above). If you happen to come across a Preac saw at an estate sale, I would recommend buying it. It's an easy saw to use, especially if you have the cross cut sled, which makes simple straight cuts a breeze. I myself have the Proxxon KS115, which cuts similar to the Preac, except the rip fence that comes with the saw isn't particularly good and the miter gauge that comes with the saw is plastic and hard to read the numbers.

Another view of the Preac saw minus the cross cut sled.
Pete calls this "The Chopper", except the guy who makes this particular model passed away and so it is no longer made. He couldn't remember the guy's name, just that he bought all the available Choppers from Betty Dann after the guy died. I love this contraption. It's about 10 x 12" and makes simple straight and 45 degree angles a breeze for wood pieces up to 1/4" thick. Unlike the Easy Miter Cutter scissors made by Midwest, "The Chopper" makes a SMOOTH EVEN cut, without the crush artifact you get using the scissor-style cutter.  
This is the Chopper made by Northwest Scale lumber click here. It's smaller at 7x7 and uses the inexpensive and readily available razor blades. It has a self-healing cutting board which will wear out over time, but easily replaceable. The Chopper Pete owns has a laminate tile over masonite. I don't know how old Pete's Chopper is, but I imagine he's had them for years and I don't think he's ever replaced the tile. There was a lady who brought the NWSL Chopper to class and she loved hers. It will make a clean cut for wood up to 1/8" thick.
This is the ruler that Pete uses to measure. Great ruler. It has 32nd and 64th increments etched for the entire length of the ruler and numbered in sequence so it is easy to read. No more guessing. Stainless steel. 1/2" wide. You need this type of ruler if you are serious about being a woodworker or just for minis in general.
The opposite side of the ruler is in millimeter with 10th and 100th increments etched the entire length of the ruler. The rulers are available in 6" and 12". Pete sells them for $6 and $12 respectively.
Bucket of 50 Mini Clamps
These are MINI CLAMPS from Micromark (#82979, 50 clamps for $19.95). These are SMALL, but strong. I found them really helpful for clamping together wood pieces after gluing to keep them flush as they dry. They don't take up too much room, don't mar the wood, and have a good grip. Definitely buy the bucket of 50 so you never run out of clamps for your mini projects.
Other tips I picked up from taking Pete's class:
1- Always sand your wood pieces before you paint. It makes for a better looking finished product. He also recommends using a TACKY CLOTH after you sand the pieces. He gave us each our own tacky cloth, but I found that the cloth leaves a slightly sticky touch to the wood.
2- Pete likes to use SHELLAC after you stain wood pieces. It takes about 30 minutes for the shellac to dry completely. You use STEEL WOOL to buff after the shellac. Then you run a MAGNET across the wood after using the steel wool, and you'll be amazed by the steel lint debris the magnet will pick up.
3- MDO stands for medium density OVERLAY vs MDF, which stands for medium density FIBERBOARD. MDO has a PAPER overlay whereas MDF doesn't. Regardless, if you plan to paint over MDO or MDF, you need to use PRIMER before you paint the color you want, or you'll be painting 10 or more coats for coverage.
4- You can get away with SPRAY PAINTING INDOORS if you have a large mouth garbage can with plastic liner. Have a nose/mouth shield and latex gloves on, and you can hold the piece inside the garbage can while you spray paint the piece, and it doesn't create a mess. It sounds easy enough, except I never thought about doing it that way before.


  1. I made a sliding table for my Proxxon table saw, sometime soon I will take decent photos of it and do a post on my blog. I enjoyed all your posts on Williamsburg, I just haven't had much time to leave comments lately.

    1. Would like to see those plans. Can you post?

  2. Glad you enjoyed the pics.
    Looking forward to seeing your instructions on making the Proxxon sliding table.