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Lasers are popping up on all kinds of instruments. Are they helpful – or simply intelligent advertising and marketing? We examine.

Editor’s observe: David requested this query means again in 2005, however with instrument producers nonetheless placing lasers on all kinds of instruments, it stays related.

If you are taking a have a look at all the brand new instruments that at the moment are sporting laser-guidance gadgets (disregarding laser ranges – we’ll come again to these shortly) you’ll discover that basically the instruments are designed for the do-it-yourselfer class, not the skilled. Do the skilled woodworkers know one thing that everybody ought to know? We assume so.

I reviewed all of the woodworking instruments accessible on-line and located the next instruments geared up with lasers for a number of promised advantages: drill presses, miter saws (a lot of miter saws), jigsaws, ranges (an unbelievable variety of ranges), drills, round saws, band saws and even a scrollsaw.

Don’t get me incorrect, lasers are actually cool and if I discover a instrument with a laser on it, I wish to give it a strive. But the truth is, many of those instruments don’t profit in efficiency from the addition of a laser, although their gross sales may profit due to lack of information.

So the place did all these lasers come from? The first instruments so as to add a laser had been ranges. This was a business software for an set up downside and it labored properly. Installers hanging drywall, development staff sighting partitions, ceilings and extra profit day by day from an correct, stage line that doesn’t must be erased. Since that profitable inception, the expertise has develop into so inexpensive that there are laser ranges popping up for house use at a nice value. Good for us, as a result of these may be useful instruments to have within the toolbox!

But earlier than you run out and purchase one, I do wish to level out one thing that will escape your consideration once you’re being blinded by the ruby mild within the checkout line: Professional laser ranges will generate an correct line as much as 100′ and keep a +/– 164” stage of accuracy. I’ll purchase that, however it’ll value me $200. A client laser costing about $40 will give a +/– 18” accuracy at 14′. I feel you get the purpose. It’s not the laser’s fault, it’s the levelling platform that’s constructed across the laser itself. It nonetheless comes again to the accuracy of the bubble stage used to arrange the laser. So store with information about what you’re shopping for.

Beyond ranges, what different instruments profit from the addition of sunshine amplification by stimulated emission of radiation?

Good Idea

Miter Saws

Once lasers began getting actually inexpensive, they started showing on miter saws. Is this a good concept or unhealthy?

Well, it’s usually good, however it may not be the perfect factor for you. Using a miter noticed has all the time posed the issue of lining up the blade along with your mark on the board. You get used to bringing the non-spinning blade right down to the work to verify your minimize. Then you carry the blade again up, begin the motor and make your minimize. By including a laser that may let you know precisely the place your minimize will likely be on the board with out bringing the blade down, you chop your time in half. So laser miter saws are good.

That is, until the laser mark isn’t correct, you possibly can’t bear in mind which facet of the blade it signifies, it strikes through the minimize, it might probably’t be adjusted or it requires the blade to be spinning at pace earlier than you possibly can place your board.

All of those are difficulties which have arisen on the numerous fashions of miter saws now sporting lasers. Not all of them are unhealthy, however when you don’t belief your intelligent laser, then you find yourself aligning the board with the laser, nonetheless testing the mark by bringing the blade to the wooden after which making the minimize. Now you’ve added a third step to the two-step course of.

Some saws use twin laser emitters that put parallel traces on the work indicating each side of the blade, so there’s no query the place the minimize will happen. The laser is switched impartial of the motor and can be utilized with out the blade spinning. Both laser traces are adjustable to compensate for misalignment or when utilizing a thinner blade. If you possibly can’t pop for the twin laser, discover a single laser that adjusts simply and works with out requiring a spinning blade.

You’ll have to determine in case your work will profit from a laser miter noticed, however have a look at one that gives profit slightly than sizzle.

Drill Presses

The first time somebody advised me that Craftsman had a drill press with a laser information, I began to chortle, then stopped. Just like a miter noticed, the drill press requires bringing the slicing instrument to the work to align the minimize. So the thought of a laser to information the way in which does make sense on a drill press.

Craftsman isn’t the one one providing a laser-guided drill press nowadays. Some producers provide integral lasers and others are aftermarket equipment. All offer you a set of crosshairs to establish the middle of the bit, slightly than a single straight line.

The caveat with the drill press lasers is ensuring they are often simply adjusted in the event that they’re off-calibration. The idea itself is sound, so long as it may be precisely adjusted. So laser drill presses aren’t a gimmick.

Circular Saws

This one I like and I’m glad to see it. Granted, I’m a woodworker, and the round noticed is extra of a development instrument. But I exploit one on many events to get sheets of plywood right down to a manageable dimension for my desk noticed. And I’ve by no means been ready to make use of the foolish notch within the base plate to align the blade precisely with my minimize line. Maybe I’m not leaning far sufficient to at least one facet or the opposite, however I’m all the time lacking the mark by 18” or so.

By including a easy laser to the entrance finish of a round noticed, abruptly I know the place that blade goes to chop. And that’s an empowering feeling! Could it’s higher? Sure! Give me dual-laser traces so I’m certain to chop on the appropriate facet of my line.

Just a Gimmick

This is the facet of the road the place advertising and marketing has taken the motive force’s seat and cause has been sure with duct tape and tossed within the trunk. Just as a result of you possibly can put a laser on a instrument doesn’t imply it’s best to.


Don’t get me incorrect, I like a jigsaw. I don’t know what I’d do with out one. But I would like one in order that I can minimize curved and round patterns in wooden. There’s no moveable energy instrument that may, as effectively, minimize out a reindeer for the entrance yard or the scrollwork for a hutch.

But these tasks make my level for me; They’re curved. Sure, you possibly can attempt to minimize a straight line with a jigsaw, however it’s prone to look extra like an undulation than an underline. So what good is shining a crease-straight laser line on the board if the noticed isn’t able to following it anyway?

Chalk one up for the advertising and marketing staff on this class. Sure they’ll promote a bunch of them, however they’re higher off placing a mild on the entrance of the jigsaw (which they’ve, thanks) than a laser.


Ack! If a jigsaw isn’t an acceptable use for a laser, how on the earth is a scrollsaw even conscionable? A straight line is the other of what this noticed is designed to chop! And in contrast to a jigsaw, scrollsaws use skinny sufficient blades which you can truly monitor a first rate straight line, even when it’s only 1″ lengthy.

And even when you’re a woodworker who makes use of your scrollsaw for straight work, why do you want a laser to comply with the road? It’s proper there on the board in entrance of you the place the blade is touching it.

Putting a laser on a scrollsaw is redundant at finest and simply foolish in our opinion.

Band Saws

Putting a laser on a band noticed is a debatable idea as as to whether it’s a helpful concept, however I feel I’ll argue towards it.

While band saws are able to slicing  a straight line, and so they do get used for that goal, there are bodily forces concerned that make it unlikely to be helpful so as to add a laser.

Because band noticed blades have a “drift” tendency (the blade pulls at an angle making it essential to angle the board on the desk to make a straight minimize), it’s arduous to even orient a rip fence on a band noticed to make a straight minimize. Some fences regulate for the drift of the blade and any laser must have the identical functionality.

Even when you can regulate the laser for drift each time you alter the blade, it feels like a lot extra work than it’s price. It’s a good strive, however no, it’s a gimmick.


I sat via a producer’s demonstration on including a laser to a corded drill. The factor appeared like a tumor caught on the highest of the drill and I spent a jiffy making an attempt to determine why this was a good factor so as to add to a drill. They spent greater than a jiffy making an attempt to persuade me it was a good concept. I nonetheless don’t get it.

The drill/laser primarily throws two perpendicular traces ending on the drill level. Company officers argued that it could permit you “square” tasks, and help in horizontal and vertical drilling.

It could be one factor if the laser would point out if the drill is being held in a perpendicular angle to the work floor. This could be fairly useful. Unfortunately that’s not what the drill’s laser did.

Nope, I’m not shopping for it. Figure out easy methods to make the laser present perpendicular accuracy and I’ll transfer it out of the gimmick column.


While I can’t guess what number of extra instruments will arrive in the marketplace with lasers connected, I’m prepared to foretell that lots of them gained’t final via the primary gross sales season.

I’m additionally prepared to foretell that the instruments that do make sense will stick round. It’s your job to regulate these procuring urges till you take into account the purposes for a new laser instrument. If you want a laser simply to personal a laser, purchase a laser pointer … they’re cheaper.

Product Recommendations

Here are some provides and instruments we discover important in our on a regular basis work across the store. We might obtain a fee from gross sales referred by our hyperlinks; nevertheless, we’ve fastidiously chosen these merchandise for his or her usefulness and high quality.

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