LumberJocks

My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #313: My New Excalibur EX21 Scroll Saw!

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 04-18-2011 02:03 PM 9247 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 312: Ready for Cutting Part 313 of My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer series Part 314: More on the Excalibur Scroll Saw »

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.

I am still working on my new projects today, and will have more of them tomorrow for you. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this beautiful Spring day and have some fun! My cold is feeling better and I thank you all for your suggestions and nice wishes.

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"



17 comments so far

View KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1852 posts in 1793 days


#1 posted 04-18-2011 02:23 PM

Sheila,

I, for one, am looking forward to your next post on this topic. I am an AVID fan of the DW788 and for the life of me can’t see how a saw could get better.

This might be that very saw – I am very happy for you being able to test these two side-by-side and curious how the EX will rate compared to “old faithful”. :-)

One thing I am really curious about (and would love for you to test) is the length of time it takes to re-thread the blade from one cutout to another. As we all know, that’s what takes the most time on projects that involve a lot of isolated cuts.

Looking forward to your reviews!

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7836 posts in 1644 days


#2 posted 04-18-2011 02:51 PM

Hi, Bob!
I am going to try to do a video today of me re-threading the blade. Both Keith and I used the saw yesterday, and we both agree that after getting over the fact that things are in different places, the EX-21 is as fast or even slightly faster than the DW788.

The reason being this – on the DW788, I had to give an additional push down with my left hand to make sure that the arm was completely down before attaching the blade. I found this was due to in part the added on ‘arm lift’ system that would hold the arm up while re-threading the blade. I noticed this because after doing a project with lots of blade re-threading, my left shoulder would get sore. Eventually, I didn’t use the arm lift at all and just left the am in the lower position to re-thread. But I still had to give that extra push when reattaching the blade on the top.

I don’t have to do this with the EX-21. The arm stays in the raised position on its own and when I push it down to reattach the blade, it seats down completely. I will try to show this on the video.

The motion of flipping the white lever back equals the same motion on the DW788 of ‘dialing’ the tension right to left with the black lever so that is about the same. Tightening the blade into the holder is also quite equal.

I hope this helps, 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 KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1852 posts in 1793 days


#3 posted 04-18-2011 03:21 PM

Shela,

Thanks for the quick response – this does indeed make sense. I am looking forward to the video, etc…

Thanks again!

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View huntter2022's profile

huntter2022

275 posts in 1340 days


#4 posted 04-18-2011 03:40 PM

I have the Ex21 and love it Sheila you did a great job on the review of the saw , I met Ray and his wife the 1st time was at a scroll saw picnic in Pa and then in Ohio last year Ray was there both are great people and Ray knows the EX . As Sheila stated , “he has an outstanding reputation” and “wonderful customer service.”

Bob , Re-thread the blade is really easy . I leave the blade in the top and raise the arm move the piece to the next hole and feed it in . Like anything else at 1st it was hard but after a little while came natural . lowering the arm gives you a reference point to were the saw hole is . Tighten the blade flip the tension leaver away you go. take like a minute . Now that is a guess cause I really have never time myself .

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View grizzman's profile

grizzman

7153 posts in 2028 days


#5 posted 04-18-2011 05:10 PM

wow sheila, that is one nice saw, after seeing this and knowing how hard it is to get my blades in on my delta…i dont even want to mess with it…but its all ive got and i dont do enough scroll work to even consider getting a new saw..but if i did, that’s is the scroll saw i would get..thanks for the great pictures..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile

William

9223 posts in 1567 days


#6 posted 04-18-2011 05:25 PM

The table size is very important when cutting larger pieces, the larger the better. I have even considered one day figuring out a way to set my saw down into a four foot table in order to make it so the only thing hindering me is the throat itself.
The thumb screw blade holder is what I thought was on the excaliber. I see why most people like these, but I do not. I have a tendancy to over tighten these and alway wind up stripping out the screw, or worse yet, the threaded hole the screw goes into. That is one reason why I love Delta. With the Quickclamp II system, you set the blade holder tension once, then it’s a flip of a lever from eigher clamp or no clamp. I have found that this is not a problem though. There are several companies now that retrofit the Quickclamp II system to just about any major name brand saw that can be bought.
The blade tensioning system you show is very much like what I have gotten used to and love so much with Delta. There is a lever you flip for either tension or no tension. The only difference I see is that with the Excaliber, the fine tuning is at the rear. On the Delta, the fine tuning is at the front. Once again, this isn’t an issue because, like you said, once the fine tuning is set, I seldom touch it again. As a matter of fact, my fine tuning knob has black tape wrapped around it because I don’t wat noone touching it (some have had a tendancy to mess with it when around my scroll saw).
All in all, Sheila, if I could afford one, the one things that would sell me on the Excaliber is that tilting head feature. Currently, I shy away from anything that requires beveled cuts simply because it is cumbersome cutting on a table that is tilted. With the tilting head though, you’re cutting bevels with the table sitting flat, which I think would make the material much easier to control.
Sheila, I want to thank you so much for giving us your honest assessment of the Excaliber. It is nice to have someone show the ins and outs of it without simply telling you, “I’m happy, buy one”. I’m happy with my Delta too, but that doesn’t mean everyone should have one. As a matter of fact, I think most people would be very unhappy with the saw I currently use. Thanks to you though, if I ever get to the point where I could even consider a saw in this price range, I would definately consider the Excaliber.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1852 posts in 1793 days


#7 posted 04-18-2011 05:28 PM

Hunter,

Thanks for the insight!

On my DeWalt, I do the exact same operation (Untension, Release the bottom blade, raise the arm, drop the blade through a new hole, secure the blade, retension) as you described for the EX.

I do this over and over again and it takes about 15 seconds or less each time. This is where a “scroller” makes his/her money…..... :-)

I am eager to see the process when Shelia’s video posts as to the ease of this operation.

Thanks again all!

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7836 posts in 1644 days


#8 posted 04-18-2011 05:36 PM

I do want to add that I got a PM on the fact that in order to tilt the saw 45 degrees to the LEFT (head to the left side of the table) you would need to change the bottom blade clamp holder so that the screw is on the LEFT side instead of the RIGHT side. After tilting about 23 degrees to the left, you will notice the thumb screw will begin to hit the bottom of the table if you don’t change it. This is something that I hadn’t thought about. I tend to typically tilt to the right side for most of the work I do, and I seldom tilt more than 10 degrees, so I don’t know if I would have even thought about this if it hadn’t been brought to my attention. However, if you are considering this saw, it is something you should be aware of. I don’t see a problem in it myself. :)

As far as table size too, It is only slightly shorter in width than the DeWalt. It is 13.5” wide and rectangular. I don’t have my DeWalt here to measure the width of that table, but the DW table tapers to the back, making the back smaller. As I said, I like the fact that the business part is closer to the front of the table, as I don’t have to lean over it as much as I had to with the DW to get over the center of my work. I used to have the same Delta as you William, and I forgot just how that was set up.

I will try really hard to get the video done today for you all.

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 Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1840 days


#9 posted 04-18-2011 06:14 PM

great blog and great detailed pictures Sheila
thankĀ“s for the rewiew

take care
Dennis

View patch's profile

patch

16 posts in 1413 days


#10 posted 04-19-2011 08:31 AM

I also have a Excalibur will never bay one again it will not stand up to the hard work bearing are housed in aluminium and come loss had to turn it out and put a metal sleeve to fix the problem blade holder wears thread out again only aluminium I use my saw 5 to 6 hours 5 days a week and it just over 12 months old I paid $1300 AU for it thinking you only get what you pay for so I thought I was getting a good saw

disappointed Graham

-- patch (Graham) Moama Australia http://patch2731.dotphoto.com

View jimboy's profile

jimboy

28 posts in 1368 days


#11 posted 04-19-2011 09:03 AM

I have had my EX since august of last year and previous to that I had a Ryobi so there was no comparison, I have heard many say the Dewalt is the best but I can not compare,from what you have said Sheila I totally agree, the balance of the machine is so delicate that any other vibration will alter the setting of the saw, and that is how finally tuned it is, I like the big table as I can put things on it while I am sawing with out them being vibrated on to the floor and so the list goes on, the only thing i found that I could niggle at was the blade clamps [thumb screws] of witch I have now replaced with toggle screws.
The price of this machine is reflected in the quality
Jim [NZ]

View KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1852 posts in 1793 days


#12 posted 04-19-2011 12:23 PM

Graham,

With all due respect, I doubt ANY saw mentioned in this thread would survive 20-25 hours per week’s use for more than a couple of years.

They make models for industrial use that are designed for this type of abuse.

I would have to ask you this question – What saw HAVE you owned that does stand up to the many hours of operation you place on it?

Thanks for your comments!

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

320 posts in 1644 days


#13 posted 04-19-2011 02:21 PM

Graham,

Your saw sure does get a lot of use. As Bob said, you should probably get an industrial saw to handle that amount of use however, in my opinion, you will have to make sacrifices in convenience features in order to get the durability of an industrial saw. With the amount of hours you put on this saw, I also think that the blade holder wearing out is a non-issue… just buy a new one… they wear out. On any saw with holders like this, they are made of aluminum. The alternative is a much harder to use blade holder. Since you likely have to undo and reattach the blade hundreds of times per day, it’s probably worth the few dollars to buy a replacement since this type of blade holder saves you a great many hours of time over it’s life.

As for the bearings, it’s not an issue that I have heard brought up by anyone else. I believe on any non- industrial saw they will be housed in aluminum… or worse… I know the new Dewalts use cheaper (recycled) alloys than the older models which is something that isn’t done on the Excalibur.

May I ask what would be the alternative saw that you would buy instead of this had you known?

-- Scroll saw patterns @ http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com

View KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1852 posts in 1793 days


#14 posted 04-19-2011 02:58 PM

To further Keith’s statements, I own and LOVE my “older style” DW788. I have put MANY hours on this tool and from what I understand, the person who sold it to me used to do hundreds of cuttings a week into 1 inch thick white oak for craft fair “trinkets”.

This would be the same as buying a new planer and not expecting to buy replacement blades eventually. This part is meant to wear out.

I have had NO problems with this saw yet, but I DO expect certain wear and tear to happen – one of which is the blade holders. The way I use the saw I expect the lower holders to be replaced eventually as most of my blade changes are done using the lower set of holders.

My saw is extremely quiet and vibration free – I have done the “Nickel Test”, which consists of balancing a Nickel on the saw, starting it at the lowest RPM and then dialing it up the highest and then back down without the Nickel falling over. During my test it barely moved.

I can also hold a conversation at normal talking volume while I’m cutting.

I DO know, however, my saw will eventually have to be replaced – I am very interested in seeing if the EX is worth the extra money since now that, from what I am understanding, the “New” Dewalt 788 is not as good as the old one…........ Sigh.

The great thing about LJ’s is that there are folks like me who have the same passion as I do for Scrolling that I fully trust for advice!

Steve Good, Keith & Sheila are just a small number of these folks and I thank them all! It just so happens that, until a short time ago, all of them used a Dewalt 788. ;-)

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

320 posts in 1644 days


#15 posted 04-19-2011 03:46 PM

With the stand and on a cement floor as we had it set up at the show, I have no doubt that it would pass the nickel test. Where we have it on that not-so-sturdy sideboard cabinet it does vibrate quite a bit. On the fastest speed it vibrates as much as the Dewalt did with this setup. Even with the same amount of vibration though, it is still quieter. Also the vibration doesn’t change the fact that it is significantly easier to follow lines in intricate patterns with this saw. The difference with spiral blades especially was night and day. There definitely was some unwanted blade movement on our Dewalt. Now I can follow right alongside a previous cut much easier without the blade wanting to jump into that kerf.

-- Scroll saw patterns @ http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase