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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 1/30/03

Rockler Heavy Duty Ball Bearing Stand
(Item # 61639)
Price: $39.99 USD
Review by David & Aaron Wood

We've considered purchasing a roller stand for a long time but never seemed to get around to it. Lucky, we were given an opportunity to review the Rockler heavy-duty ball bearing stand. There are a variety of roller stands available on the market today. They vary in width, length, construction, materials, etc. however, its sole purpose is to support long-length material and to allow you to feed your material easily. If you've ever tried to cut a piece of lumber eight feet long on a miter saw, you'll know what I'm talking about. The job can be very difficult unless you support the material at the end.

Now, having said that, the first thing we resort to is having someone else support the material while you make the cut. Wrong! This is not only an inaccurate method of cutting material but this is extremely dangerous. Think about what might happen when the teeth start biting into the material and your co-worker sneezes! So the problem now becomes, how do you support the material such that it doesn't move during the cut but allows you to easily reposition the material for the next cut? Short of outfitting your machinery with an in-feed or out-feed table, you'll likely pick up one of these jewels.

The Rockler stands come in a variety of configurations. This review deals specifically with their heavy duty model with ball bearings mounted on the work surface.

Packaging and Instructions
The Rockler stand came in an undisturbed heavy cardboard box with banding straps. Other than this, there was no other packaging at all. No Styrofoam, no plastic wrap, nothing. In fact, there were no instructions or grease, oil, or anti-corrosives to remove either. All the information youll ever want to know is printed on the box. In short, this stand is very intuitive.

With the exception of the adjustable feet and end caps, the entire stand is fabricated from steel. The work rest and the legs are made from 1" box tubing while the feet are composed of 1" seam welded tubing. Both have a wall thickness of .062 (1/16). The vertical support also utilizes 1" box tubing but has a wall thickness of .090. Last, but not least, the riser tube is constructed from press formed channel coming in at .125 wall thickness. Each component is adequately welded into place. The riser tube slides up and down through the vertical support and locks into place by way of 3/8-16 threads cut on the end of a thick bar stock formed at 60 degrees. The mating female threads are tapped into a pierced and shouldered hole rather than a welded nut. Legs attach to the support tube and bracket utilizing a 5/16- 18 Allen head bolts with nylon lock nuts.

The work rest is lined with eight (8) 5/8 diameter roller bearings. Each roller is encased in a steel holder and attached with two (2) #12 screws. The ball bearings are spaced at 1 9/16 on center and span a distance of 10 7/8. The bearings roll nicely and offer no resistance -- even under load.

The structure appears to have been hand welded (MIG or flux core). One of the joints was unintentionally skip welded, but nothing that would compromise the stand's structural integrity. Under magnification, the welds revealed no signs of cracking, porosity, or any other visual weld defects, although there is some weld spatter on the parent material. Who cares, right? Removing the feet and glancing inside the tube revealed a full penetration weld (1/32 drop through) extending the length of the tube with no sign of defects.

Other than the roller bearings, the stand is painted black. The overall fit and finish is very good. The only improvement that could have been made to the finish would have been to remove the weld spatter prior to painting the unit. If you're like me, you won't care. Overall its a very nice looking unit.

Adjustable Feet
The Rockler stand allows the operator to adjust the individual feet to accommodate for uneven floor. This is achieved by way of rotating feet one on each end (4 total). The outside of the foot is in the shape of an octagon with an eccentric mounting. The feet can be rotated to eight (8) different positions. Because of the eccentricity, rotating the foot increases or reduces the material between the foot and the floor. Each position is labeled from zero (0) to nine (9) and accommodates a variety of floor conditions. This is a very nice feature thats very easy to setup, change, etc. Once adjusted properly, the stand is very sturdy and solid.

Height Adjustments The Rockler stand advertises that it can be adjusted between 28 3/4" and 47" in height. When we adjusted the stand, we were able to lower the stand as low as 28 3/16" (feet set to 0) and as high as 47" (feet set to 9). Raising and lowering the stand is quite simple. Just turn the diameter lock screw and make your adjustments. One very nice SAFETY feature of the Rockler stand is its tapered riser design. On traditional stands, one hand is used to hold the riser tube while the other hand loosens the lock screw. If you don't do this, and only loosen the lock screw without supporting the top, the riser tube will come crashing down -- striking anything in its path (hand, fingers, etc.) The riser tube on the Rocker stand doesn't do this. Instead, the riser tube moves downward as you move the lock screw. If you stop loosening it, it stops moving! So, if you're lowering the stand, just start loosening the lock screw and continue to turn it until the work rest is at the desired height. Very cool feature.

Using the stand
The stand was a pleasure to use with the exception of one small mishap during evaluation (see improvements below). It lived up to its advertised weight capacity without a problem at all. It was very easy to reposition the work rest, particularly due to its tapered riser design and its light enough to move from machine to machine without being cumbersome or awkward yet heavy enough to be sturdy and feel solid. The roller bearings work smoothly allowing the material to slide almost effortlessly during repositioning, even under heavy loads. There are no leg locks to fuss with as each leg swivels down when the stand is lifted. The legs are easily extended with a simple push with your foot. Doesn't get any easier than this.

The Rockler stand stores away nicely. You can fold up the legs and either stand it up or lean it against the wall. The footprint is quite small coming in at 16 7/8" x 5". Although its probably not recommended, you can also hang it on the wall. Just remember to firmly secure the lock screw before doing so.

Improvements (Safety issue)
If you're like me, you were likely taught that when you move a stand like this one, you dont lift it by the riser tube or work rest. If for some reason, the lock screw is not engaged properly, the base of the stand will come crashing down just after you lift it. Make sense?

Well, given this school of thought, you'll likely lift it just below the riser tube. The problem makes itself somewhat obvious when you lift it. The problem becomes both visually and painfully clear when you set it back down. Remember I mentioned that the legs are made of box tubing? This tubing is cut at 30 degrees on the ends that meet the vertical support. When the stand is folded up for storage or when it is lifted, the lower portion of the legs, fold inward toward the center of the stand. When this occurs, the other end of the legs, move away from the vertical support. Adversely, when the stand is put into use, the lower portion of the legs fold outward and the 30 degree cuts come to rest on the vertical support. The pictures illustrate this point.

Back to the problem... so you lift the stand to reposition it. The top of the legs, move away from the vertical support, leaving a large gap. If your fingers slide into this gap and the stand is placed back on the ground it will likely give you a high dose of pain! Remember that there's an enormous mechanical advantage exerted at this pinch point when the legs meet the floor. Although the probability of this happening to you may be arguable, this actually happened to me as I moved the stand during evaluation. Luckily, you can feel it when the legs fold outward when you lift the stand. This should give you a pretty good indication.

The Verdict
If you're looking for a heavy-duty stand in this configuration, look no further. Other than the pinch point mentioned above, I really liked the Rockler Heavy Duty Ball Bearing Stand. I particularly liked the tapered riser design, which prevents the work rest and riser tube from crashing down, and the adjustable feet. It works very well for its intended purpose and will likely last for a lifetime in the shop.

Dave and Aaron Wood

Editor's note: You can view the Rockler Ball Bearing Stand here.

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