How many times have you hesitated to make a small
cut on the table saw simply because common sense told you that the cut was
potentially dangerous? There is something about getting your fingers close
to an unguarded 5000RPM ultra-sharp blade with 3HP behind it that sends
shivers down your spine.
Push sticks provide some safety advantage but they will
not solve a nasty kickback. Kickback is caused by wood binding on the back
of the saw blade, shooting it up and forward at a speed often too fast for
the eye to see. Before you know it, a kickback on the table saw will have
you running to the hardware shop for supplies to patch up that rather
large hole in your workshop wall, and that's if you are lucky! Many
serious injuries have been caused by kickback on the table saw.
Splitters are one of the better ways to prevent kickback
but they can be a hassle to remove and reinstall if you switch a lot
between through cuts and dado cuts. Today we are going to review a system
which claims to allow you to work safely with small stock on the table saw
and drastically reduce the chance of kickback.
In fact, the company behind the GRR-Ripper system, Micro Jig Inc.'s catchy
slogan is "Bullet Proof your fingers".
The vision behind the GRR-Ripper system is spelt out on
the Microjig website;
Our vision of
accident free woodworking
With safety as the over riding factor, we aver that the GRR-Ripper®
System is not intended to replace or interfere with the saw table
blade-guard/splitter combination. It is specifically designed for those
times when the conventional combination of a blade-guard and anti-kick
back pawls would interfere with the wood working process especially during
narrow ripping. The GRR-Ripper® System is designed to protect both hands -
at all times during use - regardless of movement.
Packaging & Assembly
Today we are reviewing the GR-200 Model, which is the deluxe model.
Most of the content of this review also relates to the GR-100 model, and
most functions can be achieved with the basic version. The GR-200 arrived
packaged well in a cardboard box with printed assembly and usage
instructions. You need to assemble the various components to build the
functional GRR-Ripper unit. This took me about 15 minutes and was not too
difficult. All parts fit together well and no problems surfaced, which is
a good start!
We also received a GRR-Ripper Instructional DVD (available for an
additional fee - US$9.95). I would recommend that every GRR-Ripper
owner purchase this DVD or if you are deciding whether the GRR-Ripper is
the right tool for you, grab the DVD and check out what it can do before
you lay out the big bucks for the tool. I must digress and say that "big
bucks" is not quite the word. Ask yourself... "How much are your fingers
worth to you?" If your answer is more than the US$60-$70 price tag,
then isn't it a small price to pay to protect those valuable,
irreplaceable 'tools' we all possess?
What is the GRR-Ripper?
I've seen this question pop-up in woodwork forums frequently, so here
is the basic answer... The GRR-Ripper is essentially a device resembling
the actions of a push-stick or push-block, but with a lot more safety
features attached. It safely allows you to cut thin, narrow or small stock
on the table saw (when used with a zero-clearance insert) which would
otherwise put your fingers near a very dangerous spot on the saw. It acts
as a moving blade guard and can improve safety on many types of cuts and
machine operations. It does
much more than just this though so let's start looking at the GRR-Ripper
in much more detail.
It is made from High Impact Polystyrene,
features non-slip grip surfaces on the 'legs', an adjustable handle and
protects your hands by having the saw blade run through a tunnel created
by the legs. Your hand rides over the top of the blade fully protected on
3 sides. Never trail your hand behind the GRR-Ripper for obvious reasons!
The GRR-Ripper also eliminates the need for featherboards or hold-down
devices for suitable cuts saving you some valuable setup time.
Difference between the GR-100 and GR-200
Basically, the GR-200, which is the 'deluxe model', comes with 2
additions, these being;
A) The 1" spacer attachment with
non-slip pad on one end to provide an additional 1" rip capacity over the
standard GR-100 model and,
B) The large stabilizing plate which allows an even larger ripping
capacity on its own or used in conjunction with user-built spacers and
also features a trailing hook which has application in stock feeding on a
number of cutting machines.
Recommended Retail Prices
GR-100 Model - US$49.95
GR-200 Model - US$69.95
Ripping Thin Strips on the Table Saw
I have always been hesitant in the past when it came to ripping thin
strips (less than 1") on the table saw. Even when using a
standard push stick it just doesn't feel safe. The GRR-Ripper is ideal for
this task. Let me walk you through the basic process so you have an idea
of how it works. As an example, I received a stack of New Guinea
Rosewood off-cuts from a friend recently (Thanks Mark!) that I wanted to
cut some pen blanks from. Traditionally this is done on the bandsaw
because the finish cut does not need to be neat as it will be turned away
on the lathe, however, the bandsaw does not cut as fast as a table saw.
So I set the rip-fence on the table saw to
1/2" away from the blade. Next I checked that the 1/2" leg on the GRR-Ripper
was going to ride along the rip-fence which will hold the keeper piece of
the cut against the fence during the cut, as well as down to the table. The larger center leg on the GRR-Ripper
is adjustable left and right between the outside legs to accommodate a
wide variety of width cuts. I loosen the thumbscrews and move the center leg
over to the 1/2" leg leaving a narrow channel for the saw blade to pass
between the two legs. It is critical for maximum safety that the saw blade
always run through a channel created by the GRR-Ripper. This middle leg will actually be holding/guiding the
off-cut piece during the operation, reducing any chance of the off-cut
side binding on the back of the saw blade. Before making a cut, I sight down
the line of the tunnel to ensure the blade will safely pass through
without contacting any part of the GRR-Ripper and that the blade height is
set correctly for the stock passing through. I then attach the balance
support for added safety and to prevent the GRR-Ripper "rocking off" the
workpiece as I make the cut. I reposition the handle so it is basically
over the middle of the cut line as well. With all that checked, I can now
start up the table saw and make the cut.
The aim during the cut is to keep the
workpiece firmly against the fence by applying a combination of forward,
and slightly lateral pressure toward the fence as it passes through the
blade. As the cut is made, take caution to remove the cut pieces carefully
(especially if you are making multiple cuts without turning off the saw).
Remember that because of the nature of the GRR-Ripper, the standard blade
guard cannot be used. I make it a rule never to place my hands within the
area of the table saw insert when the blade is spinning. If you are making
a single cut, complete the cut and turn off the saw, wait for the blade to
stop spinning then remove your pieces.
The handle on the GRR-Ripper is adjustable
left and right and can be angled to allow you to place the
downward/lateral force needed dependant on the type and/or width of cut
you are making on the table saw. It is adjusted with a Phillips-head style
screwdriver (basic loosen/tighten screw operation).
Remembering that the GRR-Ripper supports
both the keeper and off-cut pieces right the way through the cut, you
should find that if you carefully remove the GRR-Ripper from the workpiece
after completing a cut, that the position of the pieces are exactly
parallel and retains the cut/kerf
line created by the saw blade (see pictures right column). This means
there was little chance for the pieces to bind on the back of the blade
causing kickback. Micro-Jig do also make a drop-in splitter that works
with the GRR-Ripper system which you can read about further along in this
review. This provides
even more safety in preventing kickback.
If I was cutting multiple pieces (as I did
in this case), make the first cut, safely remove the keeper piece from the
table saw, slide your workpiece back against the fence, position the GRR-Ripper
on top with workpiece aligned tightly with the rip fence and continue with
the second cut. You can repeat this process until your workpiece is so
thin that the middle leg is not supporting the off-cut piece. Micro-Jig
recommend that at least 2 legs of the GRR-Ripper must be in contact with
the workpiece at all times. Worthy advice!
The same process applies for cutting any
width from as little as 1/4" (using the 1/4" wide leg) up to several
inches or more using spacer blocks etc. I find any cuts of 4" or wider I
can safely make without the GRR-Ripper or pushsticks by guiding the
workpiece along the fence with my hands (using blade guard/splitter of
course), however, with user built spacer blocks you can continue using the
GRR-Ripper to make these rip cuts. Why sacrifice safety?
You can cut stock up to 2" thick as well, or again, larger with
spacer blocks added to the bottom of the balance support. Bear in mind
however, that a reasonable portion of the GRR-Ripper body must ride along
the rip fence for safe and accurate cuts.
For odd cuts where the legs cannot be
manipulated into a safe position to support both keeper and off-cut pieces,
you can actually cut into the legs/non-slip grips of the GRR-Ripper to
make these cuts. It is perfectly safe to do so as long as you do no cut
too far into the body.
The excitement of cutting down what I
considered "scrap wood" or off-cuts into useable wood/pieces is quite
rewarding. It's almost a form of recycling or making use of material that
might otherwise be thrown out. I managed to create a stockpile of pen
blanks and shelf edging in minutes using the GRR-Ripper. It is certainly
much easier and much faster than using a bandsaw to make these particular
Ripping Long Lengths using Two GRR-Rippers
Ripping long lengths requires the use of two GRR-Rippers. You set up the
GRR-Rippers as you would for a short cut but as you make the cut, you use
a leap-frogging technique as you proceed. Once the first GRR-Ripper has
passed the saw blade, your second GRR-Ripper is now supporting the cut
over the blade and you bring the first back over to support the piece
behind the second. A little confusing to describe in words, but it works
well. I cut a stack of 1/4" shelf edging strips using the leapfrogging
technique and they came out perfectly. Leapfrogging does take some care.
You must ensure you position the GRR-Ripper correctly, especially when
cutting the narrow 1/4" strips. I did manage to take a small nick (well
more like a scratch really) out of one of the 1/4" legs as it was slightly
off-position. User-error there but it did not affect any working surface
so all was ok there.
This is another application in which the GRR-Ripper displays its
merits. To safely cut the rough edge off a board you may have milled or
picked up rough-sawn requires at least one edge to be straight to ride
along the rip-fence. If you are squaring it up, one face must also be
straight to that edge. To try and freehand a cut on the table saw without
any type of guide/jig is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted.
You would need to either cut the first rough edge with a circular saw or perhaps
even a bandsaw and then joint the edge to get it straight. With the GRR-Ripper,
because it acts as a sliding fence against your rip fence and supports any
wood underneath it throughout the cut, you can simply sight down your cut
line, set up the GRR-Ripper to ride along the rip fence (rather than the workpiece) and proceed to make the cut. The workpiece is guided by the GRR-Ripper,
even without the material touching the fence at all! A very handy feature
that will save a lot of time, particularly if you work with rough-edged
lumber on a regular basis.
Ripping Veneers or Thin Stock
This is another great application of the GRR-Ripper. You make the cut
in a similar fashion to the normal ripping cuts with the tool. The
advantage the GRR-Ripper has is that it places downward pressure on the
thin stock all the way through the cut as thin stock has a tendency to
ride up on the saw blade as you make the cut. This worked great during our
tests and with the use of the zero-clearance inserts, we were able to cut
veneer strips as thin as 1/4" on the table saw with no splintering at all.
The GRR-Ripper would make a great addition for those woodworkers who
undertake a lot of inlay or parquetry work.
Cool Uses for the GRR-Ripper
The DVD shows a number of cool uses for the GRR-Ripper that I tried
and worked exactly as they mentioned it would. Firstly, if ever you need
to cut a perfect, consistent groove in a piece of dowel, the GRR-Ripper can
achieve it! I would never have imagined an easy way to do this, yet using
the stabilizing plate accessory (GR-200 model only) which has a small hook
on the trailing edge, it allows you to push the dowel through the lowered
saw blade while the gripping leg surfaces hold the dowel down to the saw
table and prevent it from rolling during the cut. I'll admit that I have
not ever needed to cut a slot/groove in a length of dowel before (not that
I can remember anyway) but that doesn't mean I will not need to in the
future or find a useful project I could apply such a cut towards.
Curiosity got the better of me so out came a 3/4" diameter dowel and it
quickly received a 1/8" groove courtesy of my saw blade and the GRR-Ripper.
It works as advertised.
How about making a bevel cut with a 45
degree tilted saw blade without moving the fence to the other side of the
blade? On my right-tilt cabinet saw, I have to move the fence to the left
of the blade to make this cut safely. With the GRR-Ripper, however, I can
safely make this cut leaving the fence to the right of the blade. This is
because both the keeper and off-cut pieces are fully supported and held
firmly down during the entire cut inhibiting any free-moving pieces from
wandering into the teeth of the blade. I only tested this with one cut as
I had no need to cut any bevels for projects at this point in time, but
the cut came out very smoothly with no evidence of burning or wood
movement during the cut.
We have about 3 sets of standard rubber
bottom push blocks for use primarily with the jointer in our workshop, but
naturally, the GRR-Ripper can be used for the same task on the jointer
feeding stock through safely while planing the face or suitably wide
Router Table Applications
The GRR-Ripper can also be used as a
pushblock for template routing providing additional control and keeping
your hands away from the router bit. Admittedly I didn't try this
particular application but I would imagine it works fine. It looked effective
on the DVD. There is also some good applications for the item when used on
the router table. It can be used as a general pushblock for profile
routing where the bit will not come in contact with the GRR-Ripper, but
perhaps the best use is when routing profiles like a bullnose bit achieves
on the router table. Traditionally you would need to offset the out-feed
fence by a small amount to compensate for the material being trimmed by
the router bit (It is taking an entire edge away by a small margin).
Failure to do so, or for those who do not have adjustable fences,
would result in a sniping effect on the end of your cut where the
support from the infeed fence ends and the workpiece slides into the
router bit through lack of support on the outfeed fence. Using the GRR-Ripper eliminates the
problem. Because the GRR-Ripper body itself is riding along the router
fence, it keeps the workpiece in a steady position all the way through the
cut. This is very valuable when you only have one shot at it and it has to
be done correctly first time.
Cutting Veneers on the Bandsaw
The DVD shows an example of cutting veneers on the bandsaw which I
found to be an interesting application. Using some scrap material, I
attempted to cut some veneer on my bandsaw on a 6" wide piece. The GRR-Ripper
helps push the work material through the blade and you hold it on the face
side of the material (i.e. held horizontally). In this application, I
wasn't quite convinced the GRR-Ripper was the ideal tool for the job. Sure
it does help, but if you apply pushing pressure at the wrong spot, i.e.
next to the blade, you can actually cause the blade to bind a little. I
usually have better success free-handing a veneer cut or using shop-built
jigs for this type of cut and I found these work a little better for me.
Your mileage may vary however. You can also resaw using your tabelsaw
and the GRR-Ripper. The limitation here is you can only resaw pieces as
wide as your table saw blade extends upwards from the table. The
advantage, if you are only resawing smaller width pieces, is that the
finish on the cut requires much less work to clean up than a bandsawn
More Accurate Dado Cuts?
One particular task I found was very well suited to the GRR-Ripper
during our testing period of the device in our workshop was assisting in
cutting dados. To get a nice, consistent, flat-bottomed dado, you not only
need a really good dado blade set, but you must ensure that the workpiece
remains tight to the table to guarantee the dado cut depth remains constant.
If you are working with slightly bowed or twisted material that is not
overly rigid, you can use the GRR-Ripper to ensure the part of the piece
traveling over the blade is kept flat to the table as it is cut. Long dado
cuts require the use of two GRR-Rippers and the leap-frogging technique
The tool worked really well for us in this capacity.
Maintenance of the GRR-Ripper
There is very little maintenance required to keep the GRR-Ripper
working to its maximum efficiency. After a period of use, the non-slip
pads may accumulate dust reducing their ability to grip your material. We
found we had to clean down the gripping surfaces at least once a day or
more frequently if making lots of cuts on our machinery using the device.
We followed the manufacturers instructions for cleaning the grip surfaces
which recommends using denatured alcohol to wipe the surfaces down. This
quickly cleaned the surfaces up and they were back to full gripping power
soon after. No other maintenance is required. Just make sure all the
thumbscrews on the various components of the GRR-Ripper are tightened
before making any cut.
To Buy or Not to Buy?
I have read many forum posts by GRR-Ripper users praising the product
online. To be fair, I also heard one negative report. Well actually it was
more of an incident report of kickback while using the GRR-Ripper,
however, the individual later acknowledged that the way he made the cut
was contrary to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. He suffered
no injury as his hands were protected by the GRR-Ripper in that case.
After using the GRR-Ripper for more than 6
weeks now, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it to any table
saw owner. I think conventional push sticks certainly have a lot to answer
for since the advent of the GRR-Ripper system. It not only has made my
woodworking much safer, but has allowed me to make cuts safely that I
would have never even contemplated before. It has saved me a load of time
already and will save more time the more I use it. It's also the ideal
tool for turning scrap pieces into useable lumber, or at least lumber that
doesn't look like scraps clogging up the workshop!
If you own a table saw, the GRR-Ripper is
one tool you should not be without.
The MicroJig MJ Splitter Review
MicroJig also manufacture an inexpensive "Low Profile 1/8" Kerf"
drop-in splitter that is so simple you will wonder why no one thought of
the it before? Sure there are other brands of drop-in splitters on the
market but they can cost a heck of a lot more than the US$15 the MJ
Splitter will set you back. It is designed to be used in conjunction with
the GRR-Ripper for added safety against kickback, but it can be used on
its own as well. The idea of splitters is
to prevent wood from "closing together" at the back of the blade. This
binding effect can cause the teeth of the blade to grab and lift the wood,
launching back into the user's direction. There are numerous stories and
reports of holes blasted in workshop walls from kickback occurrences, and
these are the lucky ones!
Any device that can reduce this possibility is worth every dollar in my
opinion. The splitter is essentially a separator ensuring the wood cannot
bind together behind the blade.
Ok, so with the MJ Splitter package you
Installation takes about 5 minutes and
the splitter can only be used with a zero clearance insert. You start by
grabbing a scrap piece of flat wood/composite (that is of sufficient size)
and set your rip fence to make a normal cut somewhere through the middle
of the piece. 1/2" MDF works well. The cut you make will not be a complete cut. You will stop
your cut roughly 3/4 way through when the board reaches a pencil line you
have drawn across it previously, or to a stop setup on the table. The
fence and stop remain in the same place throughout and act as constants in
Next you pull back the cut piece and insert
the drilling guide jig into the kerf line created by the blade at the back
of the scrap piece and ensure it is snug with the back side. You then
secure the jig to the scrap piece with 4 wood screws provided. One this is
accomplished, you must raise the blade to full height and slide your scrap
wood and drilling jig toward the back of the blade until the tooth on the
back of the blade lines up with a special mark on the drilling guide. Once
this is done, ensure the drilling guide cannot move and proceed to drill
the 3 holes for the splitter using the pre-set hole "bushes" in the
drilling guide. Drill all the way through the zero clearance insert. That
is about all you need to do. Remove the drilling guide and you will be
left with 3 drilled holes in your zero clearance insert that the MJ Splitter slots securely in to. You
can now insert and remove the splitter within seconds. Full instructions
for this procedure are provided, but it's fairly straight forward and quite
a painless procedure.
Splitter Featherboard effect
One neat little feature of the MJ Splitter is that while it acts as a
splitter to prevent material closing on the back of the blade, the
splitter itself can also act as a featherboard. You actually receive 2
plastic splitters in the set, and on each side of the splitter is a number
of "+" marks. One splitter has zero marks on one side and three on the
other. The second has one and two "+" marks respectively. So what are they
for? Well in essence, each mark indicates a distance the splitter extends
away from its center pins. Each "+" represents 0.003" closer to the fence
than the surface that has one less "+" sign. What this means is that the
splitter can actually create the slightest tension on the wood behind the
saw blade, keeping it tight to the fence. It's similar to having a featherboard behind the saw blade ensuring that piece between the fence
and blade does not creep toward the blade. You can use whichever "setting"
that best suits your preference. I found the "++" surface to be just about
right for me on my saw. This effect simply provides a small extra safety
benefit in addition to that provided by having the splitter there in the
first place. MicroJig do recommend using the surface with no "+"
when cutting materials other than wood (aluminium, plastic) so no tension
is created behind the blade.
Advantages of the MJ Splitter
Easy to install/remove
Allows unrestricted use with the GRR-Ripper
Will encourage compliance through its
Allows varying degree of "featherboard"
Disadvantages of the MJ Splitter
If the safety features of the GRR-Ripper are not enough to satisfy you,
then the addition of the MJ Splitter certainly should. When used in
conjunction with the GRR-Ripper you are dramatically reducing your chance
of kickback even more, you are providing an unparalleled hand/finger
protection level that conventional pushsticks cannot match, and after our
extensive testing, we can verify MicroJig's slogan of "bulletproofing your
fingers" is pretty close to the truth and not just marketing hype!
Congratulations MicroJig. You have produced
both an excellent tool that also raises the safety stakes as well.
MJ Handle Bridge Accessory Review
Since our initial review, MicroJig have released an add-on accessory
called the MJ Handle Bridge. This accessory comprises two main components
- the handle bridge set and a removable trailing hook template.
So what do these new accessories do? Well,
let's look at the handle bridge first. Basically, it contains two plastic
components (handle bridges) that fit between your current GRR-Ripper
handle and the GRR-Rippers top face. In essence, they provide a wider base
of support for the handle which results in force applied to the GRR-Ripper
being more evenly distributed over the width of the unit itself. There is
a handle bridge for both the front and rear of the handle itself in each
set. What does it do? Well, the packaging mentions that, in addition to
virtually removing the need to adjust the handle for almost all cutting
tasks - a very useful feature in itself, the handle bridges are also
designed to accommodate future GRR-Ripper accessories that are on the
drawing boards. What these accessories are is anyone's guess at this
stage, although it does get you thinking what MicroJig can do to improve
upon an already solid product?
You fit the handle bridges with a standard
Phillips-head screwdriver and extra nuts and washers provided, and it
takes about 5 minutes to add the handle bridges to one GRR-Ripper. Once
attached, there is no need to have to remove them to use any of the other
accessories available for the GRR-Ripper.
In use we found the handle bridges to
provide improved control over the workpiece, although it did have good
control to begin with, in our opinion. There is a lot of time to be saved
in removing the need to reposition handles to provide force over the top
of the blade's path, or force in the direction of the fence, and this is
certainly well worth the asking price of US$14.95 for the upgrade.
The second part of the upgrade is the
trailing hook template. This is a small rectangular piece of plastic about
a quarter inch thick with a drilled hole near one edge. As the name
suggests, it is a template, and you should make copies of it using plywood
or other suitable materials. Because this trailing hook will pass through
the saw blade, it is sacrificial, and you do not want to ruin your master
template piece. How it works is that the trailing hook attaches to the
rear slot of the gripper with a bolt and nut. The hook sits slightly below
the base of the GRR-Ripper's 'legs' so that it acts as a trailing pusher
to help feed wood into the saw blade. If the blade passes through the
trailing hook, the hook still provides pushing power to the back of both
the keeper and throw-away pieces. I made about a dozen trailing hooks on
the band saw with 1/4" ply so I had several in reserve to use as needed.
You could cut them with a scroll saw just as easily. I have taken a photo
(see last image in right column) showing the actual template piece
supplied with the set (it is easier to see) and you can see how it extends
down to provide support at the trailing end of the block of wood to be
The trailing hook and handle bridges are
another useful addition to the GRR-Ripper product. Well worth the money if
you use your GRR-Ripper a lot on the table saw, and I dare say that if you
already own a GRR-Ripper, then you will certainly be using it a lot. We
make no apologies for our enthusiasm for this product. We think it is one
of the best table saw accessories to date.
The MJ Handle Bridge set is available
direct from MicroJig at
The GRR-Ripper itself is available from the following merchants...
Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to
their direct product page for this item
The GRR-Ripper and Microjig are
available in Australia from
Northwood Tool Company