No money, no problems. No tools, no troubles. Three tools… three troubles? The math seems to check out, at least.
So I bought a rotational multi-tool that died on its second use. Also, I bought a heat gun. That also died on its second use. Luckily, not everything I bought died on its second use. For example, take the scroll saw I purchased.
It died on its third use.
I really wish I was kidding.
Granted, it actually worked longer than the first rotational multi-tool or the first heat-gun did, but it really didn’t last long. And it didn’t even fail catastrophically, as the other two did. Like my mom said to the school teachers one parent’s day — this one’s a little special.
I’d originally wanted to buy the blue FERM SSM1005 (left) but it was sold out everywhere at the time. As I kept searching for alternatives I came across the Powerplus POWX190 (right) and I realized that the two are completely identical. Presumably both devices are made from a single manufacturer that sells just brand-able versions of their tools.
I preferred the more muted colors of the FERM, because I believe tools should have muted colors that don’t distract, but since the FERM wasn’t available, I went with the Powerplus. And it worked fine, at first. Of course, if you’ve read the previous two installments of the Tool Troubles saga, you’ll know that “it worked fine at first” has become entirely devoid of meaning for me. It doesn’t mean anything for the continued functioning of the product. As was the case here, eventually as well.
As with so many power tools, I’d never used a scroll saw before. I’d been trying to hone my skills on a piece of <2mm hardboard by trying to cut out letters and characters cleanly over a period of several days. I should have been getting better, but instead my results were getting less precise, my cuts increasingly off the lines, and it was getting harder to feed the hardboard through the saw. And I couldn’t figure out why.
I slept on it, and considered that perhaps the blade had worn out. I hadn’t really used it that much yet, but it was the initial blade that came with the hardware, and I have some experience with tools being supplied with “consumable” components that offer a poor user experience (brand new printers with almost-empty ink cartridges, anyone?). So I decided to try putting in a new blade — luckily I’d actually bought a pack of blades when I’d purchased the machine just for this type of a scenario.
I keep all manuals and spare parts in a single container for just such occasions, so I grabbed both the pack of replacement blades and the instruction manual and started the process of replacing the blade. That’s when I saw the problem.
The way scroll saws work is that a special cutting blade with metal teeth is held at the far ends of a rectangular frame inside the tool’s outer shell. The blade is often fastened through a simple tension system. The inner frame is moved rapidly up and down by a motor, moving the blade, and thereby letting the blade’s teeth cut into the material. The outer shell protects from these internals, leaving only the business end of the blade exposed (and even that has a safety cap):
It’s actually an incredibly simple system when you think about it, and when a scroll saw is built well it can be incredibly effective. But it has to be built properly, and as it turns out, mine wasn’t. Specifically, the bottom holder for the blades was at an angle. The blades are of a thin enough metal that they are somewhat flexible, and can twist in ways they shouldn’t, so I never noticed this until I looked for what was going wrong.
In order to get clean cuts the bottom and top halves of the blade-holding mechanism need to be at exactly the same angle. Otherwise the blade twists. When that happens, the teeth are no longer straightly aligned, and it becomes difficult to get a straight cut.
Since the blade is moved up and down constantly, a twisted blade also results in all cuts being wider. Movement becomes less predictable as well. Because a twisted blade by definition is also under greater tension than the tools are actually designed for, blade snapping was a real and scary possibility (which, luckily, didn’t happen in my case).
I’m still not sure how that happened, exactly. I hadn’t done anything particularly strenuous with the scroll saw, so it I’m not sure how I might have caused it. It could also have been a day 1 defect that I just hadn’t noticed. Either way, this definitely shouldn’t happen, and it did. And there was nothing I could do about it. There was no way for me to get to the bottom holder and re-align and/or re-tighten it.
The entire thing still worked, it just wasn’t usable anymore. In the end, with no other options, and replacements being difficult for complicated reasons, I opted to send the entire thing back for a full refund. I even managed to get a refund for the pack of replacement blades I’d bought with it (since, without a scroll saw, I had no use for those).
I still don’t have a scroll saw, although I’m sure I’ll get one again eventually. Since this was the third broken tool in an exceptionally short period of time, I just didn’t have it in me anymore to try to find another one right away. But I had my money back, at least… and there were other tools I had my eyes on. So I opted to put aside the money and continue to save for one other tool in particular. And I did buy that other tool!
Curious what I ended up buying? I actually meant to write about it weeks ago, and I promise I’ll really write about it soon – because it’s really cool and I can’t wait to share it. So continue following the blog, and keep an eye out for that post! 🙂