Woodworking Archives

April 18, 2006

Pony 32400 ISD Hand Clamp Review

Clamps are important and generally you want them to do one thing - clamp. Unfortunately the Pony 32400 ISD (stands for "Innovative, Superior and Dependable") just doesn't work all that well. Here it is shown below alongside a typical spring clamp for scale.

Pony 32400 hand clamp

The problem is obvious if you look closely. Note the pivot point for the clamp. It is closer to the end of the handle than it is to the jaws. This means that the clamping force at the jaw is less than the force you apply at the handle.

Sure it is "Innovative" in the same way pliers with long jaws and short handles would be, but innovative does not mean the same thing as powerful or secure. Unfortunately, clamps are called upon to be both of those things. Even the simple spring clamp has the balance right. It uses the principle of the lever to give it a strong grip.

The second thing the Pony 32400 gets wrong is the release device. It pinches people. It pinched my son when he was trying to release the clamp and almost got me a couple of times. The last thing you want is for your own clamp to bite you.

The only thing that keeps from giving this an "avoid" rating is that it might be OK for someone who is doing really light duty clamping. In that case I can imagine that the longer reach may be useful, but I just found it was a bit short in clamping power for what I was trying to do. If they can come out with longer handles so you can apply more force, and fix the pinch problem I might reconsider, but for now it is just going to be a last resort while old fashioned screw clams or spring clamps get all the use.

May 17, 2006

Ridgid 2610 6 inch Random Orbital Sander Review


Pictured is a Ridgid 2610 6 inch Random Orbital Sander (ROS). As with a large number of things nowadays, it isn't really made BY Ridgid, but is actually made in West Germany by Metabo. It is very nearly the same as their highly regarded Metabo SXE 450 Duo sander. The Metabo isn't easy to find in the US, but this tool can be picked up off the shelf at Home Depot for less money than the Metabo. As far as sanders go it is the best I've used. The positives are:

  • Smooootth - vibration and noise are minimal.
  • Adjustable - the orbital motion can be set to 1/4" or 1/8" eccentricity to allow fast removal or fine work
  • Positive dust collection hookup - the dust collector adapter has a twist lock connection so the hose doesn't come loose like some other brands. Adapter fits both 2" and 1 1/4" hose.
  • Massive - this helps when sanding flat surfaces...(see negatives)
  • Convenient - small touches like the illuminated plug identifier and the velco cord wrap just make life a bit easier when you have it plugged in with a bunch of other stuff. The removable front handle comes off easily to fit into corners better (not shown in picture)
  • Solid - I haven't used it for several years yet, but it certainly feels as if it can go the distance.

There are a few things which are not ideal about it however. In my opinion they are minor compared to the other benefits:

  • Does it have to be orange?
  • The mass which is useful on horizontal surfaces (basically it sands under it's own power and you just float it over to where you want it to sand) has to be overcome when working vertically. Being a 6" instead of a 5" is the biggest factor here.
  • 6" sandpaper is slightly less common so you may not see as much available if your local store has a limited selection of disks

Some thing to be careful of is that the 5" ridgid ROS is NOT the same. It is built to a different level of specification and was built in an entirely different factory in an entirely different country. In the future the 2610 or its follow-on may be built differently. Look for the "made it West Germany" marking and check the build quality in person if a new model comes out.

May 23, 2006

Stanley vs. Steve - Battle of the Planes


This #4 Bailey plane is a refugee from sometime before WWII. I'm not sure exactly when it was made, but it is one of a large number of cast-iron planes which were common before the age of power tools. Of course, since it is cordless it is still usable. Cast iron planes like this had a few advantages over the wooden bodied planes they displaced.:

  • Levers and screws for adjusting the plane blade. The lever which is visible at the top of the plane skews the blade from side to side to make sure it is going to cut an even depth across the width of the blade. The brass adjusting knob sets the distance that the blade extends from the sole. This controls the depth of the cut.
  • Cast-iron bodies don't warp with changes in humidity (they rust)
  • Cast iron soles wear longer and therefore the mouth of the plane - essential for taking a fine cut - stays consistant over time.
  • They are easily mass-produced and the final adjustment can be made by the user.

This was probably one of the first planes I owned. I'm sure I picked it up at a garage sale or flea market, brought it home, sharpened it up and used it for things like planing door bottoms or putting a chamfer on posts. It is great for rough work. While it works well, it is not perfect. And in fact, getting better meant taking a step backwards.


This is what I mean by going backwards. No more iron. No more screw/lever adjustments. Just a block of wood, a wedge, and a couple of set screws. This is a plane made by Steve Knight sometime early this century. Steve is one of a handful of retro-plane makers who take the designs of the past and re-interpret them in new materials or in differing ways. In this case, some of the woods are not traditional. The sole is made of Ipe - a hard tropical wood and the thing is laminated together using modern glues. The dark-brown l piece of wood is held in by a couple of screws and is used to control the width of the mouth of the plane as it wears. But really the biggest change between this and the other plane is the thickness of the blade.

As you can see from the two photos below, the Stanley blade is thin. It is about an eighth of an inch thick and thus is somewhat flexible. The chip-breaker (the curved piece above the blade) adds some minimal support to it, but it does not compare to the very thick blade on the Steve Knight smoother.


With this thicker blade, and a mouth that can be closed down to a very fine width, the Steve Knight plane can take much finer cuts than the Stanley ever did for me. It has a couple of other advantages as well:

  • Wooden body is warm and easy on the hands.
  • The shape allows shifting your grip depending on the direction you are planing
  • Slides well over the workpiece and is incapable of leaving a rust mark
  • Retro / Handmade feel
  • Thicker blade is easier to get a nice flat edge on.
  • Can flatten the sole quickly by running it over some sandpaper

There are some disadvantages to it. Adjustment is done by tapping the blade with a mallet. It can take a while to get the hang of that. Potentialy the wood could warp and twist, but so far it seems very stable in the moderate climate I live in.

So for fine work the victor of the battle is actually the simpler of the two. Of course for rougher work I still pull out the cast iron plane. Nothing wrong with having more than one tool for the job.

Some plane links:

  • For history and Identification of Stanley planes nothing beats Patrick Leach's "Blood and Gore" site
  • For more about Steve Knight's planes go to the source: Knight Toolworks
  • HNT Gordon offers some lovely wood and brass shoulder planes at their store.
  • St. James Bay offers a number of planes based on old designs.

There are a number of other boutique plane makers out there like those of Thomas Lie-Nielsen who updates classical designs or the new Veritas line of planes from Lee Valley which seek to add new features while updating traditional designs.

May 29, 2006

Bessey K Body Clamp Review


These clamps are great. The reason is simple. The wide square jaws stay parallel and don't bend out of square like some cheaper clamps - for example the blue Record clamps I bought which are almost useless because they flex so much. The jaw of the clamp travels very smoothly up and down the bar. Newer models are further improved with a removable end piece so that the clamping action can be reversed - turning the clamp into a spreader. Here are some of the advantages

  • Smooth
  • Powerful
  • Parallel non-stick, non-marring jaws
  • Reversible

There are a few accessories that go with them like blocks to set up 4 clamps to glue cabinet doors or drawers, and a clamp attachment which hooks on the bar and lets you clamp in a second direction. I have the clamp attachment and almost never use it. Disadvantages are that they are fairly heavy, and can be expensive. However, in the past few years they have been offered on sale at least once a year through Amazon, Lee Valley or other woodworking suppliers. Wait until then and stock up. You can't get a better woodworking clamp than these.

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