I saw a lot of interesting things at Holz-Handwerk, but this one caught me off guard. A bunch of guys had stopped dead in their tracks and gravitated towards a particular booth, where I heard a table saw and saw that a crowd had gathered. I went over to see what the fuss was about, and practically had to jump to see over everyone's shoulders, as German people are tall.
But not all of them. What I saw was a diminutive German woman wearing a business suit operating a massive table saw with a sliding bed—and working at triple speed. I mean she was just whipping the slider back and forth to make cut after cut. The power tool demonstrators at Holz-Handwerk tend to be all sizable dudes wearing workwear, and seeing this tiny dressed-up woman working this thing was undoubtedly half of what had drawn the crowd. The other half was the operation she was performing, a traditionally tricky/dangerous one: She was ripping a board down into super-thin, consistent strips, as if making her own edge-banding.
She was able to do this because she had a clever set-up. To explain it, let's say that the edge of the table saw nearest the user is "south." The woman had pulled the north tip of the rip fence well south of the blade, but the fence edge was aligned to be just millimeters east of the blade. Then, on the slider, she had rigged up two pieces of plywood with some kind of green plastic on their edges, one up north, one down south with a green plastic handle attached to it. She used these two pieces to trap her workpiece between them, pinching it both north and south. After each cut, as she pulled the slider south and cleared the blade, she relaxed the pinching and slid the workpiece east, against the fence. Then she pinched it between the green plastic and pushed the sled north to make her cut. Rinse and repeat. Perfectly consistent pieces cut in a fast, safe way.
I had to wait for the crowd to die down--I'm sorry I couldn't video the demo, it was just too crowded--and I waited my turn to approach the woman. I took a photo of the green plastic pieces, thinking this was the manufacturer's name printed on the side of it:
The woman's English wasn't great and my German is nonexistent, so we had the following exchange:
"That's fantastic, do you sell it in the 'States?"
The woman seemed puzzled. "No, we don't sell…only give. It's free. Please take." She reached into a box full of the green plastic things and tried handing them to me.
After some confused back and forth, I finally worked out what was going on here. Turns out the "berufsgenossenschaft" molded into the side of the plastic isn't the manufacturer's name, but means "professional association." The woman represented BerufsGenossenschaft Holz und Metall, or BGHM, a cross between an insurance company and OSHA for the wood- and metal-working industries in Germany. (I'd later spot this CNC plywood contraption they were also promoting.) Her demonstration was meant to impress bypassers with the safety device and to encourage them to take them back to their shops, all in the name of free safety.
I found out the safety set-up is called "Fritz und Franz." Here's a video showing the exact operation I saw the woman doing (though she was literally doing it three times faster):
I couldn't find anyone selling the "Fritz und Franz" pieces in the 'States, but the gent in the video above found some free plans online that you can use to make your own. Here's the PDF (in German, but you can puzzle it out).
Here's the full video where he shows you how he made his:
Also, German manufacturer Ruwi makes this alternative design:
Lastly, here's the original (and ancient) German safety video demonstrating all of the tricks you can do with this set-up:
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