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Laser Guide

Permit me to ask a personal question if I may. Its OK, I can keep a secret! Well, here it is: Have you ever made an expensive purchase because you can afford it and you wanted to rather than needed to? You know the sort of thing, a super radio for the car, some expensive golf gloves, a Lie-Nielson plane........ etc. Yes, I am sure you have and I am guilty too. The reasons are not really justifiable but in this hobby have been (in a well known woodworking forum)  termed the "gloat factor"

I have a sneaky feeling that the  high quality Laser Guide from the Craftsman Gallery falls into this category and owning one can certainly provide that secret feeling of 'one-up-manship'.

I am sure that Lewis Stepp of the Craftsman Gallery won't mind if I quote part of an email he sent to me which outlines the background to this device.

"We designed our laser mount for the 625, but several customers have adapted it to the 621 by drilling a 3rd hole in the phenolic mounting plate.  It is best with the 625 (type 3) because the PlungeBar does not get in the way of the laser.  Looking at our PlungeBar sales, 66% of our USA customers are using the DeWalt 625.  No other router has more than 10% usage by our customers.  Older 625 models (type 2) have only one tap for the edge guide and will require some adaptation in mounting.

I ordered the laser with a 1/32 wide beam.  That may seem wide, but I am able to center within the beam.  Be sure to provide plenty of illumination in addition to the laser.  We pay a high price for the laser because it is made in the USA and we order only 100 at a time, but I expect the price to decline with time and increased parts integration.  The laser, like most tools, is helpful in certain situations, but not all.  If you received the model with clips separating the battery pack and laser module, we have eliminated the clips and now directly connect the battery pack with the laser. "

It has taken some time to arrive at this review as I don't own a DeWalt 625 Router. In return for some programming advice on their communications system, a local distributor has kindly given me one on extended loan. As is usual, we in the UK are disadvantaged by the the fact that the prices here are roughly double those of America.

So, armed with a new router and having purchased a new type A PlungeBar from WoodRat, I have been able to make a start.

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Here is a view of the kit part assembled. It comes with a comprehensive and clear instruction pamphlet. The two black rectangles are self adhesive Velcro strips for fixing the battery pack to the back of the router. This kit is the later version with no connector in the battery to laser cable. The well made phenolic base, the metal parts and even the nylon screws have a feel of quality about them. The battery pack, ah yes, the battery pack, caused me considerable embarrassment. I blame it on old age, tiredness, a full moon or indeed anything, but I removed the cover screw and couldn't open it!!!  My son Paul, B. Eng, PhD etc opened it in a flash. The cover just slides off  you see. "Look" he said, " there's an arrow" -so there is. "A 5 year old could do it." I couldn't find one at the time.

OK back to reality, it runs on three AA sized alkaline cells. I don't yet know how long they last or if re-chargeables are permitted. If you own one perhaps you could let me know.

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A plastic knob holds the mounting bracket into a T-slot on the phenolic base and slides for adjustment to centre the laser onto the work. One nylon bolt is set against the bracket as a returnable reference point and the other is adjustable to set the width of the router bit. The details and suggestions for actual  use are described in the kit literature. The photo on the right is looking down the barrel of the laser.

Never, ever look into the laser with it switched on!!!

The laser barrel itself is very clearly of very high quality and industrial design. The body is of smooth and thick black steel with a brass retaining ring holding the lens in place.

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At this time I made an interesting discovery. This laser is a focussed one. I own some laser levels and an Axminster laser pointer and they all transmit parallel beams so I suppose I expected this one to be the same. I presume there is some strong engineering reason for this; the image is certainly very bright. The left photo shows how I set up a simple jig and found the laser cross to be in sharp focus at ~5inches. At 3 inches and 9 inches from the lens the image is blurred. This is important to remember in use. It is also a compound image in so much as it consists of a wide very fine lined cross with a much bolder and thicker cross in the centre. I did have some problems photographing these images as I suspect that the laser light was in some way confusing the focusing of my camera.

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Picture on the left shows the laser mounted in its bracket and fixed to the router. Since neither the router nor the laser are mine, I elected not to stick the Velcro tape to either to prevent any marks. It doesn't make any difference to the operation provided that the battery pack can rest on the mount. The nylon fixing bolts are simply screwed into the tapped holes used for fixing the router fence bars. Hopefully you can see on the above photograph the double cross image. This proved to be very useful for calibrating the laser setup.

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I do own a DeWalt 621 router and the base is easily adapted to fit that, requiring another mounting hole to be drilled and a small piece removed from the left side of the phenolic. I believe that this laser pointer could be successfully fitted to other routers providing that there two screw holes available to fix it to. As an experiment I quickly put together this mount for a 621 from some acrylic stuck together with super glue. I used the 'Rat of course to rebate two strips which I glued onto the base to create the T-slot. If you own a slot cutter then it would be even easier.

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I cut out a rectangular strip of maple and marked the end with lines as shown above. Do this as accurately as you can. Place this test stick into the camlock at the height to which you normally work, which for me  is tight up under the plate.

I fitted a v-groove cutter into the router so that I could plunge it to leave a small mark on the test stick in exactly the same manner as described in my centre finder article. If the router is perfectly mounted to the central east/west position then this will align with the line on WoodRat's centre liner. If you have made a mounting error and the router is off centre then all will be OK once the laser is "calibrated".

For more information on The Craftsman Gallery products visit their web site www.chipsfly.com

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