WoodRat Mini-Mini Review

Frank Pellow

Member
Messages
2,332
Location
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
Last Thursday evening, I attended an introduction to the WoodRat seminar/demo at Lee Valley. This is an expensive (about $800 to $1,000 with extra parts and bits) router jig made in England that I have contemplated buying instead of a router table. Well, I am no longer contemplating such a purchase. :( The jig, although very clever, does not really make it. The problem is that they stopped after only doing about 85% of the job. The final 15% should have been to add adjustment knobs, calibration, and gears. Rather, the carriage is pulled along the track with a wire (rather like the internal workings of the old radio dialers for those of you that may have built such things) and all cuts must either be eyeballed or measured with tools provided by the user. If Veritas were to get a license on the machine and add the final 15%, it would be a real winner but I can’t see that happening. There were 5 other potential customers at the demo and they all agreed with me. Here is a photo of the jig:

wood rat.JPG

Here is link to the item in the Lee Valley catalogue: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=52369&cat=1,43000,52709
 

tod evans

Member
Messages
4,993
Location
ozarks
frank, lotsa companies make millions selling "better" lures to fishermen, ones designed to catch the fishermans hard earned money.....woodworking jig-n-fixture manufacturers are no different.........ol` dev put it very well on another forum, i believe he said;" yet another window extrusion designed to guide handheld powertools".......tod
 

Glenn Clabo

Member
Messages
170
Location
The Ocean State
Frank...
There's nothing like a first hand look to help make up your mind where you want to spend your money. You looked...didn't like...walked away.

I on the other hand had been intrigued with the Rat for awhile (sucker for window extrusions I guess... eh Tod?;) )...but continued to hand-cut dovetails (while dreaming about a Leigh jig)...mortice with a drill press ( finally bought a mortiser )...tenoned on a table saw..etc. Then I had a chance to get one cheaper than list. I talked to Dave Richards at great length, looked at John Lucas's review ( http://www.woodshopdemos.com/wr-1.htm ) , looked at some UK sites ( http://www.aldel.co.uk/ ) and watched the demo video a couple of times. Then I pulled the trigger...and although I haven't used it as much as I intend to...I'm only sorry it took so long and that I'm not able to get into the shop enough to work with it.

I knew the Rat was not just a replacement for the router table...although the router in mine has not been on since I got my Rat. However, I wanted a tool/machine/jig that could produce about every cabinetmaking joint and liked not having the same "machine" look every time that you get from jigs. IMHO the Rat is a tool that gives you hand-tool look and quality. It also saves you a box joint jig, a dovetail jig, and a mortise and tenon jig...and will do more varieties than any single one of those. As an old machinist it reminds me of Machine Shop Mill, that's precise enough for woodworking. Having been in real wood/machine shops I wouldn't think of using it in a shop like Tod's though.

The WoodRat does require some experimentation...it is upside down to what I was taught...but I kind of like that. I sometimes try to do things just to see if I can with most tools I have. I haven't thrown out the router table...and probably won't because I use it as an extension to my tablesaw...AND I'm sure somewhere along the line I'll always find something that the Rat can't do that the table can (long molding is one I can think of already).

As always...when it comes to tools...to each their own...and I respect everyones opinion and their right to spend their money the way they choose. I love Tod's shop because I love machines and understand the economics...but mostly I drool over what he makes with them...

Joe...Just send me the booby prize. :eek:
14 My Choice St
My Wallet, USA :laugh2:
 
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tod evans

Member
Messages
4,993
Location
ozarks
glen, i`ve never used or seen one in person so please take my opinion for what it`s worth;) .........and i too cut my dovetails by hand and cheat by using a mortiser......tod
 

Mike Wenzloff

Member
Messages
290
Location
Forest Grove, Oregon USA
The WoodRat works great. I've had one for a few years.

The movement method seems rather crude, but it has proven itself to be accurate, reliable and durable. And replacable by going to the hardware store if need be.

That it isn't a turn-key system for making joints is true. But therein lies some of its flexibility. That it doesn't come with every widget or jig to extend its capibilities is not much different than if I think about the jigs and fences I have made for shapers and routers.

There are no end to the number of machines available for purchase at lower, same and higher cost. No big deal.

Take care, Mike
 

Doug Sinjem

Member
Messages
400
Location
La Habra Hts. CA
frank, lotsa companies make millions selling "better" lures to fishermen, ones designed to catch the fishermans hard earned money.....woodworking jig-n-fixture manufacturers are no different.........ol` dev put it very well on another forum, i believe he said;" yet another window extrusion designed to guide handheld powertools".......tod[/QUOTE

I read alot of Dev's posts on another forum, sent him some pms but never heard back. I always enjoyed what he had to say. Is he still around? I don't see anymore posts by him.

Doug
 

Frank Pellow

Member
Messages
2,332
Location
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
Glenn and Mike, it’s good to hear the other side of the story from folks who are happy with this jig. I know that it can be made to work well for folks –as demonstrated by the guy on the DVD. with lots of practice. I know that that the jig is designed to be flexible and to handle most joinery, and that is what attracted me to it.

But, if I am going to put out a very large amount of money for a jig, I want built-in adjusting knobs and calibration that are very accurate.

I can’t help but drawing an analogy to my old Craftsman table saw that I had for about 30 years and built many great things on. It obviously could be made to work, but I much prefer using my General 650 saw equipped with a JessEm miter guage because the combination works very accurately and I am not always having to stop and measure the set-up.
 
S

Steve Clardy

Guest
frank, lotsa companies make millions selling "better" lures to fishermen, ones designed to catch the fishermans hard earned money.....woodworking jig-n-fixture manufacturers are no different.........ol` dev put it very well on another forum, i believe he said;" yet another window extrusion designed to guide handheld powertools".......tod[/QUOTE

I read alot of Dev's posts on another forum, sent him some pms but never heard back. I always enjoyed what he had to say. Is he still around? I don't see anymore posts by him.

Doug

Dev just kind of disappeared over there.:confused:
 

Mike Wenzloff

Member
Messages
290
Location
Forest Grove, Oregon USA
Frank, it's obviously not worth the cost to you. Just as an FMT or a Leigh jig isn't/wasn't for me--which is what it takes to approximate the Rat's functionality.

The WoodRat is really not that hard to use. It is very much akin to working by hand with power assisted cutting. So for someone like me which is use to working by hand, layout is the same. Same flexibility in laying out joints and all that. Cutting by eye--which one doesn't need to do--makes the WR fairly fast to use.

It isn't suited for banging out banks of drawers or dozens of doors for a kitchen. But it is suited for furniture making, especially one-off or very low volume repetitive parts *if* one is so inclined to buy the thing.

Take care, Mike
 

Frank Pellow

Member
Messages
2,332
Location
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
John, part of the homework that I did before attending the demo was to read the excellent review at your WEB site. But, as I said, I was disappointed to find that the machine nis too "finicky" for me (and for all the other demo attendeees) , even though it is capable of assiting one to create many types of joints.
 

Dave Richards

Member
Messages
2,836
Location
SE Minnesota
Frank, it is unfortunate that you didn't get a good demonstration of the WoodRat. At least that's the impression I get from reading your review. Of course everyone has their own tastes and if it isn't the tool for you, that's fine.

I have had my Rat for a number of years and use it more than my router table. It is my "go to" machine for much more than dovetails. I spent a lot of time researching before buying it and felt it was the better choice for me compared to the other options out there.

Don mentioned Barry Wixey's DRO for the Rat. Too late. Already been done by Lewis Stepp of The Craftsman Gallery. I have two of them, one for the east-west movement (left to right) and one for the north-south direction (fore and aft). They add some accuracy but certainly aren't a requirement.

Lewis has also come up with a number of other accessories for the WoodRat that are well thought out and add a great deal to the capability of the Rat.

One thing that is frequently overlooked is the fact that you can make safe climb cuts with the WoodRat. There's no risk of getting fingers pulled into the bit. This is nice when cutting tenons for example as there is no breakout along the shoulder of the tenon. Climb cutting is risky at best when using the router table or when hand holding the router.

Ah well, different strokes for different folks. That's what makes it possible for so many companies to sell the same sort of things. :thumb:
 
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