Biting the bullet - Ex 21

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
18 Feb 2011
Reaction score
Switzerland, near Basel
Well Ladies & Gents, AES finally “bit the bullet”!

It was my birthday a few weeks back (the big seven oh! - but apart from my back problems I can hardly believe it). My lovely Lady agreed with my request that as part of the celebrations we visit Munich which is less than 4 hours drive for us.

There were several reasons for this destination, not the least of which was the opportunity to visit Dictum GmbH “mehr als wekzeuge” (i.e. more than tools). I had contacted them beforehand (their English is better than my German!) and when we arrived, set up waiting for me to try out was a Hegner Multi Cut-SE at one end of the bench and an Excalibur EC 21 CE at the other. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but just in case I brought along several bits & pieces of pattern already mounted on various types & thicknesses of wood – and even a couple of bits of shim brass & steel. To my surprise, I was left alone to get on with it – help if I wanted it but otherwise I could play for as long as I liked, no pressure at all. I ended up with over an hour on each machine and my wife had a little go too.

Despite the frequent advice from members of this Forum I eventually settled on the Excalibur. Reasons?

1. The Hegner undoubtedly felt to be the “better” machine – the Excali was certainly low on vibrations (especially compared with my cheapo Einhell!), but the Hegner was even better, and overall just felt to be “a better machine”;

2. Against that, although I’m sure that I would get used to blade changing on the Hegner, I found it a bit of a fiddle during that hour trial, whereas I was changing blades “like a profi” within the first 10 minutes (tool-less) during the Excali trial;

3. Using the same blade on each (very fine jeweller’s blades that I’d brought with me) the Excali seemed to do a better job of cutting 15 thou brass and 30 thou steel (both Imperial measurements - suitably sandwiched between thin scrap ply). That feature is important to me;

4 I’m not sure how important it will turn out to be for me, but the tilting head on the Excali is wonderful – both convenient and accurate as well as very comfortable - especially compared with any tilting table saw I’ve used (including the trial Hegner);

5. Most Forum members seem to feel that although VERY good machines, Hegners prices, both for machines and for any spares needed, are simply too high these days. In this case my Excali was a little over 100 Euros cheaper than the Hegner I tried – for a bigger (capacity) machine with an (arguably) better overall spec. Although clearly labelled as made in Taiwan, a very close look at the Excali showed no lack of quality of engineering or materials when compared to the Hegner. Time will of course tell, but to confirm one of the points Chippy Geoff posted a while back, my table is already beginning to mark slightly after very little use so far – clearly some sort of self-adhesive plastic film or a birch ply sub table will be needed soon;

6. Although IMHO very silly very large and non-standard size, the dust extraction port of the Excali is a lot better than on the Hegner. A bit of work with some scrap ply (the first job I did on the Excali when back home) solved the dust port to vacuum hose fit problem. However it is still rather large and bulky under the table, but as you’ll seee in my pics, I get away with it OK on my sawing table (just!). But it does work well, and about the only dust not efficiently extracted is a small pile under the table, mostly on and around the head angle adjustment knob. You might just spot some in the pics.

About the only other comments I have are reference Dictum and General International (the Excali makers).

Dealing with Dictum was an absolute pleasure and I got the feeling that even if I had not been spending a relatively large sum I would still have been welcomed with open arms. Their shop in Munich is not quite as large as it looks on their web site video but is very well stocked, is clean and tidy, and even includes a comfortable sitting area with free coffee and books and mags to browse (both woodworking and non). They even pay your multi-storey car park fee. A great shopping experience for both of us.

However although clearly knowledgeable and enthusiastic woodies, the people I dealt with are clearly not scroll saw specialists. I asked about an optional foot switch and they didn’t know anything about it. Indeed the manual included with the saw (German and French only) does not mention a foot switch as an option – just the table/stand which I didn’t want. It was only when I got my own saw home that I found an English manual “hidden” under the thick ply packing base. (Of course I found that only AFTER I had visited the General International web site and downloaded and printed out the .pdf English manual!).

I therefore E-mailed General International asking about the availability of the foot switch here, and whether I could use it on our 220 Volts mains here in Switzerland – I know the US uses 110 Volts but can’t remember if Canada uses 110 or 220 Volts.

Anyway, I’m disappointed to say that despite a total of 3 messages spread over 2 weeks, all sent to the Customer Service E-mail address shown in the manual and on their web site, I have received precisely NIL reply!

I find that very disappointing for a company manufacturing a range of machines which can hardly be described as “cheap and cheeful”.

That’s rather dulled my pleasure in the whole thing I’m afraid, and at present I’m in 2 minds as to whether or not to follow up with Dictum or to use my Skype and call the non-responding “Customer Non-Service” people in Montreal. We’ll see, and if anyone’s interested I’ll advise the final outcome.

I hope the above is of some interest and not too “windy”. Please remember I am far from being a Scroll saw expert, but if anyone has any remarks or questions I’ll be pleased to respond.

It’ll take me a little while yet, probably after my next hospital stay, but I hope to post a couple of “look what I’ve made” items here in future.

Meantime, thanks to so many members here for all the info and inspiration freely shared.

Exc 21-1-C.jpg

Exc 21-2-C.jpg



  • Exc 21-1-C.jpg
    Exc 21-1-C.jpg
    223.9 KB · Views: 2,563
  • Exc 21-2-C.jpg
    Exc 21-2-C.jpg
    248.4 KB · Views: 2,562
a belated happy birthday to ya! and there's always something to put a dampener on what was a great day out shopping but it looks a great bit of kit.
They have some great features that other manufacturers should try and if my Axminster (hegner clone) ever wears out It will be a toss up between the Hegner and EX21.
Looking forward to seeing some of your projects with the new kit
Very interesting article AES which I'm sure people will find interesting.

We have bought several electrical items since moving to Germany and the languages of the manuals seem to only relate to countries that we share a border with. Thank goodness for the internet and Google Translate :)

Happy belated birthday and good luck with the next hospital visit ;-)

Thanks for your excellent appraisal and comparison.
Good luck with your health
Thanks for the interesting article. Good to hear others views and experiences.

You mentioned your reservation about blade changing on the Hegner (others have too in the past) this is something I can never quite understand, I have a quality made Diamond saw and it is a real chore to change a blade on that but I find it a 'breeze' on the Hegner especially with the quick clamp, I do fretwork with hundreds of internal cuts and I can practically undo and reinsert the blade in seconds with my eyes closed!

Please understand I am not trying to be a 'killjoy' it's just that often people comment about difficult blade changing on the Hegner and I just don't understand why? :D


Hi John you are not being a 'kill joy' I have only had the pleasure of owning a Hegner and I agree with you how anybody could have problems with changing a blade.You put the bottom clamp in [ the spring clip holds it in place now you can forget about it]You then put to top of the blade in the slot provided and clamp.Total time less than a minute,how easy was that.

Judging by the number of people who find changing Hegner blades difficult, and an equal number
who find it easy, I conclude that it's "easy" but not "obvious" AKA "easy when you know how".

Sounds like a tuition/training/documentation issue.

Hi Andy, first of all congratulations on your birthday and on getting your hands on the Excalibur. Looking at the photos it does look an attractive machine and different looking to the one I had. I hope it gives you many years of enjoyable service. It's a shame about the foot switch situation, you will find that when you do get one that you will wonder how you ever got on without one. Be careful though if you do a search for a foot switch as many of them are for musical instruments and not suitable for scroll saws but there are still quite a few that will foot the bill, forgive the pun.

If I were in your shoes one of my first priorities would be to make a sub table, the longer you leave it the more unsightly the table will become. The only disadvantage is that you may lose the advantage of using reverse toothed blades depending on the thickness of the sub table. It will be intersting to hear from time to time how the saw is performing. I hope it never lets you down.
Hegner blade changing, is as simple as s*****g the bed, but a hell of a lot cleaner. :shock:

Take care.

Chris R.
Gents, first off, thanks to all for your positive responses to my EX 21 “review” – not to mention the wishes for my recent birthday and good wishes for my health. Much appreciated, thanks, and I’m working on my health believe me.

A couple of specific resonses to some of the points raised:

@CHJ – yes, a toss up between Metten and Munich, they’re both about the same distance from us. But not only was my wife previously a Munich resident (many years ago, but she still has friends there) but as I’m sure you know, it’s also home to the Deutsche Museum, a place I’d wanted to visit for some time, particularly to see both of their separate aviation sections (I now have a LARGE collection of photos in Photoshop)! Re Schwabing, nice area, but sorry, I’m not any sort of shooter so don’t recognise your “playground”.

@Bodgerbaz – thanks for your comments. I can normally manage a German manual (slowly!) but wanted the full works for such an important purchase. For the benefit of other members here I should explain that “bodger” very kindly sent me a CD crammed full of .pdf scroll sawing articles recently. As a result it has taken me over 3 weeks to post the above original review, mainly because my evenings have been spent reading a whole load of fascinating and useful stuff.

@Chippygeoff – noted re the foot switch, thanks. Perhaps because the Excali is a larger machine overall than my last Einhell, I’ve already found that a foot switch would be useful – both machines have the On/Off and speed controls in a similar place, but somehow it’s a slightly more “awkward reach” on the Excali. I think I shall chase the people in Montreal next week for that. Re a sub table, good point, and I shall definitely do something sharpish. To mitigate the reverse tooth blade problem I thought that first of all I’d try a sheet of that self-adhesive clear plastic film that they use for covering books. If that’s too soft I’ll try to find a piece of hardened and tempered aircraft skin of about 16 G that’s big enough (and flat enough)! Please see also my note re bandsaw blades below.

@scrimper & bugbear – I actually wrote QUOTE: “ … blade changing a bit of a fiddle.” UNQUOTE. I didn’t write that it was QUOTE: “difficult” UNQUOTE. No, I don’t think that anyone's being a killjoy, but it seems obvious to me that if presented with 2 separate “exercises” which are completely new to you (changing the blade on a Hegner and on a Excali), if you try both and straight away find one easier than the other, then although you may well find that the more “fiddly” exercise becomes simpler as time goes by, the one which was simpler to start off with is going to keep that advantage into the future. I think bugbear has hit the nail on the head – neither of the machine’s manuals were available to me for the trial at Dictum, and as said in my original post, neither of the very helpful Dictum blokes were experts with either saw – perhaps they unwittingly “transferred” their own unfamiliarity to me, and it was clear that they too found the Excali blade change easier than the Hegner. But from their attitudes it was made very clear to me that they were not about to influence my decision in any way, the choice was entirely mine, and as said, I found the Excali blade change “simpler” or perhaps more intuitive than on the Hegner.

@Chris R – sorry mate, I have no experience whatsoever of s******g the bed! :roll:

A couple of other points that may be of interest:

1. The Excali manual makes it plain that it’s possible to use a piece of broken bandsaw blade to increase both the coarseness and the depth of cut (from 2 up to max 3 inches). Although I do have a broken bandsaw blade I haven’t tried this yet – I’m still experimenting with various Pegas blades (came with the saw) and some Ohlsens in a sample set that I got from Mike in the US a while back (but which didn’t fit into the Einhell very well). In addition I’ve tried some very fine jeweller’s coping/piercing hand saw blades (worked well) and some pretty coarse pinned blades from my original Dremel Motsaw (I gently tapped the pins out over a small peening block with a small hole in it). They worked fine too.

But I will try the bandsaw blade idea later, and report back.

2. Because both my Dremel and my Einhell had rubber feet with holes in them (for bolting down to a bench), when I saw that the soft plastic Excali feet had to be removed for bolting the machine to a bench, leaving just plain steel feet, I inserted some hard rubber “tap washers” between the feet and the (ply) bench top. I did this because as noted in my original review, although good, I thought the Hegner was slightly better than the Excali in terms of overall vibration. This did NOT work, despite fiddling with the tightness of the nuts over quite a wide range. In the end I removed the rubbers completely and the result is much better – perhaps still not quite as quiet as the Hegner but it’ll do me fine.

Apart from the above sub table or “plastic film cover”, and some more practising (a LOT more practising actually), the next job is to either change the present Karcher shop vac dust extractor for a much quieter unit or find a way to quieten the Karcher (an acoustic labyrinth box perhaps)?

Again thanks to all for the interest and good wishes, and thanks to all UKW SS members for the inspiration.

AES":38x4m8s0 said:
...the Deutsche Museum, a place I’d wanted to visit for some time, particularly to see both of their separate aviation sections ..
Yes have visited the Aviation venues in recent years, found it quite nostalgic as they had the Dornier DO 31 in there, I saw it doing its first trials flights at Oberpfaffenhofen near Wessling when I was detached there on an International Infrared calibration trial.
AES":1vfb3giy said:
@scrimper & bugbear – I actually wrote QUOTE: “ … blade changing a bit of a fiddle.” UNQUOTE. I didn’t write that it was QUOTE: “difficult” UNQUOTE

Lol and what I actually wrote was
You mentioned your reservation about blade changing on the Hegner (others have too in the past) this is something I can never quite understand,
I never suggested you said difficult! :)

Regarding using broken band saw blades I have this facility on my Diamond, in fact you can use hacksaw blades or any blade for that matter but TBH I have never ever had need to use the facility. However one day such a use may arrive and I shall eat my words.

Rubber mountings, I did what you did when I bought my Diamond thinking it was the best way to dampen vibration but as you found it did not improve things, in fact when I spoke to the man who invented and manufactured the Diamond he said bolt it firmly to a table or bench and bolt the bench firmly to the floor and not to use rubber mounts.

Do keep us informed how the machine performs advising of and pros and cons.

@CHJ - you'll soon have a PM (about aeroplanes, to save wandering off thread here and boring everyone else).

@scrimper (John). Noted re blade change - no problem. Re the vibration issue, the little I have is really not an issue, but I was interested in your comments from the scroll saw manufacturer, thanks. My "sawing table" is actually a cheapo welded steel typist's desk with a thick ply top screwed on and with the Excali mounted at one end and a small band saw bolted down at the other (I sit to use both 'cos of my back). Due to my lack of space the sawing table is on castors (very hard composite/rubber balls) so that I can move it around the cellar as needed. It certainly isn't bolted down to anything and I woudn't want to do that, because of that space/access limitation. Just a comment FYI. Yes, I'll certainly keep everyone posted about how I get on with the Excali as my experience grows.

Thanks all.

Hi all,
It's been interesting to hear the pro's and con's between choosing a Hegner or Excalibur scroll saw.

For the last two and a half years that I have owned my Excalibur EX21 it has done everything that I have asked of it from cutting thick oak to thin brass plate and everything in between. I bought it from Axminster who are the UK importers for Excalibur scroll saws.

Regarding vibration, I can stand a UK £1 coin on its edge on the table with the saw running and it stays still. The table surface does look unsightly after it's been used for a bit but its only the surface coating and not the actual metal that marks. I took the dust extractor port off altogether as I found that small bits that went down the blade hole got stuck and fouled on the piece I was cutting, especially doing small fretwork cuts. I just let the dust fall through and vacuum up when I've finished. I like the fact that you can lift up the top arm for blade changing and hole entry and it stays up while I fiddle about finding the right blade entry hole, and the tool-less blade change makes it quick to change blades. Although I should state that I have no experience of Hegner blade changing so cannot compare their relative merits.

All in all, I am happy with my EX21 and fully expect to be regularly using it for many years into the future.
A couple of comments come to mind reading through this thread.

Quite a few Bavarian Tool/Equipment suppliers seem to still hold customer accommodation high, last time I was there a local company in a nearby village who were shut on company holiday during my visit, on receiving an enquiry about opening times, offered to have someone open up the demonstration workshops for me to 'play' with the machines if I wanted to, so I'm not surprised at the offer of hands on time with the saws.

Machine vibration, Good quality well engineered machines bolted to a solid/heavy fixture are good for vibration absorption, but it must be remembered that whatever component is out of balance or not tuned to eliminate the vibration is now going to have to absorb the vibration within itself as it can't offload the inertia by causing mass movement.

Not a problem if bearings and pivots are well specified and capable of absorbing the punishment, not so good for cheaply made goods with minimum spec. components, for instance plastic linkages may have premature wear, substituting these with metal replacements at a future date may well just pass the problem on to the next weak link.
Nice looking saw & thanks for the analysis.
Would be good for cutting violin f holes perhaps, with a fine blade.

AES, Interesting reviews on these two machines and I have been particularly interested in getting one of them. After a good deal of thought, it came down to the Excalibur EX16 would do as the depth is better for my worktop,

I advertised my older scrollsaw yesterday and sold it today and was looking forward to arranging a visit to Axminster to discuss the EX16 and place an order. It was a surprise today, when I telephoned Axminster to make arrangements, that I was told the Excalibur had been withdrawn, to be re-branded in the UK as Axminster Excalibur Trade, obviously in the usual grey colours of Axminster.

I tried to find out if any of the original were left, but after a call back I was told the last one has been sold and the new re-branded models will be in the stores about the third week of February.

Dissapointed, but I have also been told that there is no difference in the models, only the Livery. Also a slight reduction in the prices.

In the back of my head I am thinking, if these are manufactured in Germany and not the far east, how have 'Excalibur' (the originators) allowed a new name to be added to their machines. Reward possibly?

I am on the list for contact as soon as the new machines are ready to inspect and will be up there quickly as at present, I dont have a machine, Had I known about the change, I would have delayed the sale on mine.

@Ben, I'm glad you found the review useful. I haven't tried it of course, but I would think that the Excali (and a big enough Hegner too) would happily cut your 2 inch thick instrument heads as well as F holes - with the right blade of course (which is a whole different subject in itself).

Reyour QUOTE: In the back of my head I am thinking, if these are manufactured in Germany and not the far east ..... UNQUOTE:
According to the paperwork that came with my machine, it was not made in Germany but in Taiwan. The story seems to be that a Canadian gent first invented the Excali (with it's tilting head) some years back, but sold out to a large Canadian company in Montreal called General international (whom I believe also make table saws, etc). Notwithstanding that, I've judged the overall quality of my machine as high - certainly comparable with any European-made stuff I think.

As to why/how Axi are able to get the machine re-badged I've no idea, but would just guess they've done a deal direct with GI - they are/were the UK agent for Excalibur and I guess that's all part of the continuing business deal made directly between the 2 companies.

Going back to the original thread started by Ben a couple of days ago (sorry if I've inadvertently raised a "red herring" by resurrecting this old thread from last June) Alexam please note my last post (today) on the OP started by Ben. My post, at the bottom of P1, is re foot switches - if you want one I suggest you talk to Axi at the same time as buying their saw.

In closing, just for anyone's interest, in the 8-9 months I've had my Excali, though I haven't had as much time to use it as I hoped, I don't regret the purchase in any way and am pretty confident that it will put up with whatever I throw at it in the years to come.