January 9, 2009

Arbortech Power Chisel - Review

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We've known about Arbortech's AS160 AllSaw for a while now (it's consistently been one of our most popular articles), but what we didn't know was that they also make some innovative woodworking tools; the Power Chisel and the Mini-Grinder. We weren't sure what to make of these tools at first glance, other than to be impressed with the fact that they are both essentially attachments for an angle grinder, which is one of our favorite tools and one that we think doesn't get the kudos that it deserves. We jumped at the opportunity to test out these tools and, here, we're taking a look at the Power Chisel. Our review of the Mini-Grinder should be along at some point soon.

So what is the Power Chisel all about and how does it work?

Like we just said, the Power Chisel is essentially an angle grinder with an attachment piece on the business end (the attachment is available as a stand-alone as well, more on that in a bit). At the end of the attachment, there is a place to lock in a chisel bit. Other than that, everything else is just like your favorite grinder. The Chisel comes with two bits, a one straight and one curved.

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We put on the curved blade first and tried a few random cuts down a chunk of pine that we had kicking around. The chisel smoothly peeled off the wood like it was the skin of an orange; all with very little effort on our part. We hate using the 'hot knife through butter' analogy, but that's what it was like. Knowing that Arbortech promotes this as a sculpting tool, we made a few cuts across the grain. Again, the tool removed the material with no difficulty.

arbortech_power_chisel_clos.jpgBut what about a controlled cut? We then marked out a piece of red oak as if we were mortising out for a hinge. Knowing that this is essentially a grinder with a chisel attached to it, we expected there to be a certain lack of control and almost no chance of reigning in the haphazard power of the grinder. Boy, were we wrong. We quickly found out that the Power Chisel is capable of incredibly detailed cuts. You can actually hold and guide the chisel piece while it is cutting, and, oddly enough, not really feel it move or vibrate. With the tool, we were able to mortise out the area just as easily as we could have with a regular hand chisel, and in a way, we felt we had more control because we could keep both hands on the chisel and didn't have to use a hammer. We know that there must be some serious woodworkers out there thinking that we're crazy, and before we tried out the Power Chisel, we would have felt the same way. But all we can say is that even though it feels like sacrilege chiseling wood with something that you plug in, as far as functionality goes, the Power Chisel is outstanding.

It's also safe because the chisel doesn't start cutting until it is pressed against the surface of the wood. Changing bits out is easy too, just press a release button and they slide right out.

This might not be the right tool for a casual DIYer, but any serious woodworker or carpenter would likely find it useful. And if your interested in wood carving, it's definitely something worth looking into.

The Power Chisel is available already attached to an Arbortech grinder, or as a stand alone that can be attached to your existing grinder. With the grinder, it costs about $215, and the attachment by itself costs $130. We did a little research and found that people have had some trouble with attaching it to their own grinders, so make sure to visit this page at Arbortech if that's the route you want to go down.

Power Chisel (with grinder) at Amazon.com and Highland Woodworking
Power Chisel (without grinder) at HIghland Woodworking
5-pack of extra chisel bits at Amazon.com ($85)
3-pack of extra chisel bits at Amazon.com ($63)

Here's a video if you want to see the Power Chisel in action:

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at January 9, 2009 5:15 AM

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