Grr-Ripper - Why it impresses me for both safety & performance
I grew up with a Dad that was first a carpenter, then a fine cabinetmaker, and then a remodeling contractor, so I have been around woodworking equipment for decades, and in fact as a young teenager, I both worked alongside My Dad and did my own woodworking projects as well, because I truly love working with wood. Then I got busy in my career, and for a long time, there was insufficient time for woodworking at all.
I recently rekindled my love for it, now that in semi-retirement I have more discretionary time, and have been equipping myself slowly with tools and devices available with “today’s technology”.
One of the big changes for me is the type of saw I will be using as my primary saw. My Dad used an exquisite quality 1930s DeWalt radial arm saw that he bought used in the late 1950s, and used actively into The 21st Century. It had no blade brake, and the bearing quality was so good that it ran for several minutes once shut off. I loved that saw, and knew how to use it safely and effectively. But, for my reality today, which requires small size, low weight, and portability, it was far too big and heavy and non-portable to be a viable solution as my cutting machine.
After considering both compound miter saws and band saws, and doing considerable research on lightweight and portable table saws, I bought the table saw whose quality and safety makes the most sense for me, a SawStop Jobsite saw. I really like it so far.
But, the work processes, quality, performance, and safety issues for a table saw are considerably different than those for a radial arm saw.
Being a hobbyist versus a woodworking professional, I am not very concerned about productivity, but I am very concerned about both quality and safety. And I know that an operator changing from one type of machine to another is at risk, because the safety and quality habits needed for the new machine can differ a lot from those developed on the old machine.
So, I did a LOT of research on table saws, and prepared for myself lists of the safety issues and the quality issues to keep in mind as I equipped myself for the 21st Century version of what I used to do in the 20th Century.
In the process of the research and preparing the lists, I learned about a few 21st century devices that simply did not exist when I last did woodworking.
One of those devices is the Micro Jig Grr-Ripper, in its various configurations and with its various options.
The ore I have learned about the Grr-Ripper, the more impressed I have become. I think it is a genuine technology breakthrough, that even the MicroJig advertisements and videos underestimate. I see how it can have a profound effect on quality, performance, capabilities, and safety.
I’m going to try to cover in this posting just some of the basics. It would take a small book to cover them, and other advantages of the device, properly and fully. But I am hoping that if anyone reading this is curious enough after doing so to research product independent reviews and watch at least a few of the Youtube videos out there, he or she will do so, and will start to see at least some of the potential I am seeing, beyond what I have included in this already too-long posting.
Let’s start with the fundamentals.
Things you want to avoid on a table saw for safety reasons:
- Avoid touching the top or side of the spinning blade with your fingers, to avoid immediate serious injury
- Avoid getting any push device onto the top or side of the spinning blade, which could then be thrown backwards at you
- While pushing the workpiece forward into the blade, avoid letting your hand slip and contact the blade
- Avoid letting the workpiece being cut move away from the fence and sideways into the blade, especially at the rear of the blade where the teeth would instantly accelerate the piece upward off the table and rearward towards you, at faster-than-you-can-react high speed
- Avoid letting the leading edge of the workpiece move forward without downward pressure on it, because without downward pressure on the leading edge, if either the workpiece or the cutoff piece gets into the blade teeth at the rear of the blade, it will instantly be lifted upward and rearward towards you at faster-than-you-can-react high speed, even more so than if you have downward pressure on both the workpiece and the cutoff piece
- Avoid removing the blade guard that keeps your fingers off the blade and deflects wood splinters and sawdust away from you
- Avoid removing the anti-kickback pawls that try to prevent the workpiece from being thrown rearward due to unintended workpiece contact with the rear of the blade
- Avoid standing directly along the plane of the blade, as that places you right in the path of any projectile launched by the blade, including work pieces, cutoff pieces, and carbide blade tips
- Avoid using two hands to push and control the workpiece if possible, since that doubles the chances of getting a hand in contact with the blade, if concentration wanes or a kickback event occurs.
Things to avoid on a table saw for performance and/or quality reasons:
- Avoid changes in feed speed, as they cause the cut to be less than perfect
- Avoid temporary “pauses” in feed, as they can cause burning of the cut surfaces of the wood
- Avoid letting the workpiece move away from the fence, since that will instantly make the cut line no longer perfectly straight and ridge-free
- Avoid really small / thin/ lightweight workpieces or cutoffs, because they are very hard to control, and can rather easily get into the blade teeth, where they get destroyed and then launched upward and rearward at you
Things get more complex when, like me, you want to cut primarily very small workpieces (I love to make small children’s toys with many small component parts that also include many combinations of miter and bevel cuts).
Here are some safety and performance issues that make cutting small parts on a table saw makes even more challenging:
- Cutting small parts often necessitates removing the blade guard just to be able to get the fence close enough to the blade
- Cutting small parts without a Grr-Ripper often necessitates getting fingers VERY close to the blade, where even a minor kickback or slip could lead to finger contact with the blade
- Conventional pushstick devices, when narrow enough to handle really small parts, cannot provide the simultaneous stability in fence pressure, forward pressure, and downward pressure needed for a safe and successful cut
- The geometry and mechanics of conventional pushsticks pretty much force you to stand directly behind the blade when cutting very small parts
- Small parts are usually also lightweight parts, with little inherent stability when being pushed past a high speed spinning blade that also generates a good destabilizing “wind” as it rotates. The small pieces tend to not stay where you would like them to stay
How the Grr-Ripper addresses safety issues:
- The Grr-Ripper gives you a specific “safe spot” to place your hand (its handle), and also covers the blade for the several inches when the workpiece is being moved over the blade
- The Grr-Ripper prevents you from getting it onto the top or side of the spinning blade, by enabling you to control the Grr-Gripper path precisely, via creating a “tunnel” for the blade and keeping the Grr-Ripper controlled tightly against the fence by its design
- While pushing the workpiece, the Grr-Ripper prevents letting your hand slip and contact the blade by providing a specific spot for your hand to grip (the handle) and keeping the Grr-Ripper body between your hand the blade
- The Grr-Ripper avoids letting either the workpiece or the cutoff piece from moving away from the fence and sideways into the blade, by gripping each piece tightly via its green friction surface, and forcing a path that hugs the blade, via its design
- The Grr-Ripper avoids letting the leading edge of the workpiece move forward without downward pressure on it, because by using just one, or even easier if using 2 Grr-Rippers, you can always keep downward pressure on the front of the workpiece, and on smaller workpieces, you can apply downward pressure to the entire workpiece throughout the entire cutting process
- The Grr-Ripper avoids the problem of removing the blade guard that keeps your fingers off the blade and deflects wood splinters and sawdust away from you, by BEING a replacement “moving” blade guard
- The Grr-Ripper avoids the issue of removing the anti-kickback pawls by itself acting to prevent kickback, by enabling you to hold BOTH the workpiece and cutoff piece precisely and with as much downward pressure as you care to apply
- The Grr-Ripper allows you to stand offset, versus directly along the plane of the blade, for a couple of reasons: it allows you to exert directional and pressure forces via the handle, and the height of the handle makes it possible for you to even do so from the right, versus left, side of the fence
- The Grr-Ripper avoids the extra risk exposures of using two hands to push and control the workpiece , by enabling forward push force control, consistent force against the fence, and downward pressure using just one hand on one well designed handle
continued below . . .