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Reposting From My Regular Blog to Review the EX-21 Scroll Saw

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Review by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 04-19-2011 12:53 AM 7019 views 3 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Reposting From My Regular Blog to Review the EX-21 Scroll Saw No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

After several months of waiting and anticipation, the moment finally arrived when I got a chance to really get to know and work on my new Excalibur scroll saw!

Even though I had the saw delivered to the show in Saratoga Springs, there was little time for me to enjoy it and really run it through the paces. I was very busy at the show and I must say that I was only at the booth a couple of hours a day, during which time I was usually talking to people who stopped by. Both Keith and I were asked many questions about the saw and we allowed many people who inquired about it ti give it a test run. We both felt that the best part of demonstrating something like this scroll saw was to allow people to try it first hand.

In the short time I got to make a couple of cuts on it at the show, I could immediately feel the difference between the EX21 and my DW788. It seemed smoother and quieter, but I couldn’t really tell if it was because of the noisy environment that I was working in or if it was truly the case.

The following week when I returned to Saratoga Springs to teach, the classes were quite full and while I was teaching, I also had little time on my saw. Besides, there were others who wanted to try it and in the first class I gave anyone who wanted to a time at it so they could see how it felt in comparison. The second class was full, as I said and we were actually short one scroll saw for a few hours so it was used the entire time by the students.

We came across a small issue during that second class, and I thought it was worth mentioning. In order to tension the blade properly, you need to go through a two step process. First you flip a lever in the front of the saw, where the blade is held, and then you are able to fine tune the tension by adjusting a knob in the back. Since the blade is not totally removed and replaced with every inside cut (you only release the top or bottom of the blade, depending what you are used to) it isn’t necessary to fine tune the tension with this knob every single time. It is only really necessary to do so when you are changing a blade completely, and it only takes a second.

When there is not blade tension from the lever, the knob in the back is also under no tension and we found that the vibration from the neighboring saw was causing the knob to inadvertently turn, changing the tension on its own while the sawyer was re-threading the blade into another hole. I want to point out that this was also due to the fact that the saws were both clamped to the same workbench and the vibration from the saws were passed on to each other – something that would not happen in our own shops or if we had it mounted on the stand that it came with. This was really the only ‘glitch’ that I have seen with the saw and was absolutely no fault of the design. Once we discovered what was happening, we just put a little piece of tape on the knob to stop it vibrating out of place during the blade change and everything was fine.

I was asked to show some more detailed pictures of the saw and its differences between it and the DW788 and I did so yesterday while I was cutting. As many of you know, I have a small place here so I am sorry to say that I immediately put the DW788 into storage last week in order to keep my work area clear and clean. If you find it necessary for me to post comparison pictures of it, I will do my best to look into my pictures and see if I have any that pertain to your specific questions or comments. At the worst case I can go and take pictures on a later date to help you out if necessary.

So without further delay, I will present my new saw – the EX-21 Excalibur:

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

On first look, you can see that instead of the tear-drop shaped table that the DW788 had, it has a rectangular table. I don’t really do large pieces, but someone like William will be able to tell you better than I would if this is really an issue. Although the table is slightly more narrow from side to side, it is longer in the back and the “business part” of the saw action is closer to the front of the table. For myself, I like this feature better, as the work is closer to me and I can control it better. I can always step back a little bit if I need more room in front, and I don’t have to lean with the saw right into my chest anymore.

I am going to show you all the process of setting things up so you can get a better look at the saw.

First, I put the blade into the upper blade clamp. This clamp is much like the DW788, where a thumb screw is used to tighten it in place. There is a difference though. Because of the different tension system, there is a (white) stop right above where the blade is inserted into the clamp. On my DW788 I used to have the blade sticking up approximately 1/4” above the clamp. This is impossible with this saw because the stop will cause the blade to bend slightly. For this reason, I find it absolutely necessary to attach the top of the blade first and then the bottom. This is a good thing I feel and eliminates blades slipping out because of improper placement in the holder.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Once the blade is seated in the upper clamp, you simply tighten it in using the thumb screw, as with the DW788.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Now you are able to guide the blade right into the lower blade clamp underneath the saw. After the first few times, you can do this by feel and don’t have to stick your head under the saw to see what you are doing.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Again – tighten the thumb screw to clamp in the blade securely.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

This is the lever that I was talking about to set the tension. You simply move it from the front position . . .

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

To the back.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

There is a bit of resistance when you are doing this. You will quickly see if there is too much resistance that you need to loosen the knob on the back. Once it is set the first time though, you are just about ready for anything with only minor subsequent adjustments necessary.

This is the fine tune adjustment on the back end of the saw. You simply turn this knob clockwise to tighten the blade to your desired tension. Once this is set, it is pretty much in place. When changing blades, you may need a little adjustment here to compensate for different size blades and slight differences in placement, but for the most part that should be it.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

You are now ready to turn the saw on.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

The on/off switch is located right on the front of the saw. It is a bit smaller than the DW788, and I must admit I need to get used to it not being as large, but many people like to use the foot pedal on their saws so it wouldn’t be an issue. I have a foot pedal, but I don’t really want to use it. I know there are die hard foot pedal people out there, but I am not comfortable using it and prefer not to. It is here if I ever change my mind. :)

Once the saw is running, you can easily adjust the speed by turning the dial on the top of the upper arm.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

I find that the EX-21 doesn’t top out with as fast of a speed as the DW788, but that is inconsequential to me because I never ran the saw at top speed anyway. When I pushed the DW788 to the higher speeds, there was too much distracting noise and vibration anyway and I felt uncomfortable. For those of you who want to fly when you saw, it may be an issue, but I don’t think it is at all. It is just something that I noticed.

The next feature that I am going to talk about is really something that sold me on the saw. As many of you know, I am in the process of designing many candle trays and also design many self-framing plaques and baskets. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary that you make bevel cuts with your scroll saw (cut on a slight angle.) Although my DW788 was able to do this, it accomplished by tilting the table of the saw. This meant that when cutting on a bevel, the piece itself was angled and I was cutting either uphill or downhill. I found this somewhat difficult because usually these bevel cuts were either large circles or ovals, where precision was necessary. By the simple fact that the piece was on an incline, it was not always easy to control and maneuver the piece as you wanted, as gravity would not allow you to let it go and reposition your hands during cutting.

The EX-21 (as all the Excalibur models) allows for the saw HEAD to tilt, leaving the table and your workspace level. This feature alone is one of the biggest selling points for me with this saw. The head is capable of tilting 45 degrees in each direction, giving you a full range of bevel. It is an easy adjustment and is done in seconds.

First you loosen the lever underneath the saw by gently turning it:

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Then you turn the dial underneath to the desired angle. There is an indicator right there, but I would use a combination square if you really need to be accurate.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Remember to tighten the outer lever again before cutting:

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

You are then ready to cut your piece on a bevel. How slick is that???

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

Guys and girls – this really is cool! I am already thinking of all I can do with this process being so easy. I do want to tell you though that when bringing the saw back to 90 degrees, it is best to use a combination square to make sure the blade is at a true 90 degrees from your table.

From New Excalibur Saw Pictures

The DW788 had a kind of ‘set point’ where the table settled into place at 90 degrees, and the EX-21 does not. I don’t know how accurate the DW788 was, but I always found it best to check anyway to be on the safe side.

Tomorrow I will go into the actual cutting on the saw and my impressions of its performance. I know this is getting quite long. Overall, I am thrilled and excited about having such a wonderful tool to use in my designing and even though I know it cost a bit more, it is absolutely, positively worth it. In just the short time that I have used it already, things are so much easier and the cutting so much more accurate that I wish I would have changed over a long time ago.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the EX-21. I am hoping to make a short video about it soon too so you can see first hand how quickly everything is adjusted. If you want to see larger pictures, just click on the title of them and it will take you to my Picasa album. I know some of you don’t like to go off site here so I included them all here for you to look at, but you can see them better in the album.

One final note too, I am still waiting for my light, as it was on back order. I got my saw from Ray at Seyco and he has been wonderful with getting everything to me for the show and all. Even though he is in Texas and far away, he has an outstanding reputation on every forum that I am on and also with others as to his wonderful customer service. I felt great about getting the saw from him and I am not disappointed at my choice in the least. He has been helpful with any questions and with setting it up and getting me up and going. It is great to know that there is still good customer service still out there.

Happy creating to you all!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"




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Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7748 posts in 1606 days



18 comments so far

View Hacksaw007's profile

Hacksaw007

593 posts in 1875 days


#1 posted 04-19-2011 01:11 AM

Wonderful, looks like you will have a lot of fun with this work horse! Love your work and reviews. Can’t wait to see your video.

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3674 posts in 1850 days


#2 posted 04-19-2011 01:13 AM

Thanks for the review…......I don’t do much scroll work, but the day may come. Stefang (Mike) has one of these saws as well, since he does a lot of scroll work.

Looking forward to the next installment…................

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View bigike's profile

bigike

4032 posts in 1974 days


#3 posted 04-19-2011 01:43 AM

good review I just wish I had the $$$ to get one!

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://www.icombadaniels@yahoo.com

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Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1801 days


#4 posted 04-19-2011 02:15 AM

great you got it here too Sheila :-)
thankĀ“s

Dennis

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SteveMI

858 posts in 1980 days


#5 posted 04-19-2011 02:20 AM

For the blade being 90 degrees, ask any friends that are machinists about a 1”, 2” 3” setup block. I picked one up and it really makes it easier. It stays in place without having to balance the combination square. You can move the table with one hand and keep your other hand on the tightening knob.

I have a 788 and tuned all of the vibration and front/aft motion from it.

Steve.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7748 posts in 1606 days


#6 posted 04-19-2011 02:22 AM

Thank you Steve. That is a great idea. :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3674 posts in 1850 days


#7 posted 04-19-2011 02:29 AM

Steve
I own one of those blocks, and it sits right under my nose on my measurement tote….....and I always forget to use it.

Gonna put it on top of the tote…....maybe I will remember….......

Thanks Steve…........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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RandyMorter

227 posts in 1376 days


#8 posted 04-19-2011 04:24 PM

Great review Sheila, thanks!

-- Randy Morter, Phoenix, AZ

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2267 posts in 1702 days


#9 posted 04-21-2011 01:58 PM

Hey SG,glad you upgraded to the saw of your dreams. You were great with the Dewalt..I can’t wait to see you skyrocket with this beauty! Congrats.

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7748 posts in 1606 days


#10 posted 04-21-2011 02:01 PM

Thanks, Michelle! I am quite a fan of your work. Your new piece is truly incredible! It is fun to play with nice tools, isn’t it?? :D

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2267 posts in 1702 days


#11 posted 04-21-2011 02:16 PM

Well you know, Sg how girls love their toys! Lathes, tablesaws, jointers, planers. Oh Joy!

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

View swamps42's profile

swamps42

42 posts in 1254 days


#12 posted 06-06-2011 03:06 AM

Thanks for this wonderful review! I’m trying to get started in designing and also want to make a ton of scroll saw yarn bowls for my local fiber arts group. I’d gotten to the point where my first scroll saw, a Harbor Freight special, just couldn’t quite keep up with me anymore.

Talk about a leap. I just ordered my saw from the local Woodcraft store. It should show up on Friday. I’m absurdly excited. I can’t wait to get cutting with it. I have to admit, I’m also a bit excited that one of my good friends is buying my old saw. Now he and I can scroll together and both make toys for his kids. His wife and I are always sewing and knitting toys for their 3 boys, and now I can scroll toys with the husband too!

As if all this weren’t great enough, I found out we have a local scroll saw club in my town when I was putting the down payment down on my saw. I can’t wait to meet new friends.

-- -Kim, Peyton, CO

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7748 posts in 1606 days


#13 posted 06-06-2011 12:46 PM

You sound like you are really on your way, Sawmps. That is great news about the club too. I hope you enjoy your Excalibur as much as I am mine. I feel like my cutting went up to another level with this great machine. The more I use it, the more I like it. Keep me posted!

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Steeler's profile

Steeler

2 posts in 735 days


#14 posted 10-16-2012 07:26 AM

Hi Sheila,

great review :-) Still happy with the saw?

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7748 posts in 1606 days


#15 posted 10-16-2012 11:19 AM

I am really quite pleased with the overall performance of the saw. While I still have my DeWalt for when Keith and I both do production cutting (many, many pieces at a time for kits) I only use it for than. The precision and smoothness of the Excalibur is unsurpassed, and both my partner Keith and I feel that it has brought up our level of cutting considerably.

In the time since we had it, we had a problem with the linkage in the arm. I blogged about it here: http://lumberjocks.com/scrollgirl/blog/29821. But Ray at Seyco (www.seyco.com) took care of us quickly and sent the new piece for us to install. He did offer to get the saw replaced, but since we had it all apart already, we chose to keep it and just do the repair ourselves. He sent us the part, and all went well. We understand that the new assembly replaced the type that we had problems with, so the new saws all come with the improved set up.

The only other issue I have had with it is sometimes the blade slips a bit. This also happened with my DeWalt, as the blade holders are nearly identical. We use very small blades typically and I like them tensioned extremely tight. I feel that gives me the most control and precision. Because of that, we do tend to wear down the faces of the tensioning screws. We just received replacement screws in the mail and installed them yesterday. While it wasn’t always a problem, it was something that happened every now and then and replacing the screws after the hundreds of hours of cutting and changing blades was probably warranted.

Overall, both Keith and I feel that this saw is superior to our DeWalt by far. While it is not as aggressive in cutting as the DeWalt (slightly slower) it more than makes up for it in the precision department. We are able to slightly turn the motor to achieve a bit greater front to back motion which is desired in production cutting when you are aiming for speed. By doing that you are making the cuts a bit more aggressive and the wood moves through the blade quicker. However, we always return it to its original position and adjust it for minimal front to back movement when we are doing our regular cutting. This allows for much greater detail and far more control.

Bottom line – we love the saw. It is smooth and much quieter than the DeWalt, and a good, solid machine. Well worth the extra money if you are into doing anything with precision. It is truly a pleasure to cut with it.

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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