Riding a Ryobi Snow Blower Rollercoaster

Last month I was messaging my brother, who said he loved his 40V Ryobi snow blower and lawn mower. I’ve had an Ariens 520 two stage snow blower for over a decade, but haven’t used it much the last few years. It used up a lot of space in the garage, took a long time to get started for the winter season, was slow to use, and left me smelling like exhaust. The thought of getting away from gas yard tools was exciting and I have a large collection of Ryobi’s 18V power tools, so they’re a brand I trust.

I jumped on Home Depot and ordered the 40V HP Brushless 21 in. Cordless Single Stage Snow Thrower with (2) 5.0 Ah Batteries since none of the local HDs had it in stock. It was $549.

The only steps involved in assembly were to twist on the chute, secure it with a screw, and tighten the handle. I immediately loved how compact it folded up.

We got snow the next day, so I put it to a test.

The snow blower was easy to start with the push of a button. It was very quiet, light, easy to maneuver, and has a bright LED light. Right away I noticed it didn’t have the power to throw the snow very far as you can see in the video. I would be throwing the snow right in to an upcoming path, so would be moving the same snow 2-3 times! Not a good start.

The triggers on the handle that need to be held in order to keep it running were awkward to use and I accidentally let go multiple times. Then after less than 10 minutes of use, I let go and the motor wouldn’t start again. Both batteries had about 75% charge left and the LED headlight was coming on without a problem. I could hear a bit of a clicking sound from the motor.

I loaded it in my car and returned it to Home Depot the next morning.

I was extremely disappointed in the machine and due to my positive experience with other Ryobi products, I felt the need to leave an online review, which I almost never do. To my surprise, I got a response the next day.

I also received the following email.

My name is Christian, and I am the Product Development Coordinator for RYOBI Snow Blowers.

We received your online review on the RYOBI 40V HP 21” Snow Blower. We understand you have had an issue with your RYOBI Snow Blower. It is our policy to make absolutely sure that 100% of our customers are pleased with their experience with RYOBI. Could you please call me at 864-642-8094? I would like to investigate this issue with you and make sure that your experience with our products moving forward is a positive experience and that you walk away understanding that our customer service is unmatched.

If you prefer you can reply to this email, and we can discuss your experience to find a solution that meets your needs.

I emailed back…

I returned it to Home Depot two days after it was delivered (the night after trying it). We had less than 2 inches of light snow and the unit was pretty terrible. It barely threw the snow 5-6 feet, so I would end up going over the same snow multiple times to do the driveway. Then after maybe 10 minutes of use, the auger wouldn’t start again. The LED light was on and both batteries had 3/4 charge. Maybe there was something wrong with the motor on this unit, but it seemed very under powered and I wasn’t confident it would be able to handle any real storm.
It was quite disappointing because I have a lot of Ryobi hand tools and they all work great. I was hoping to replace my gas snow blower and lawn mower with Ryobi units for ease of use, space saving, and not having to deal with gas, but I’ll be sticking with them now.

Their next reply…

This issue your snow blower experienced has become know and we have since corrected the issue with our units in inventory!

I would like to offer to upgrade you to our brand new RYOBI 40V HP 21″ Whisper Series Snow Blower as I see you were not impressed with the previous models performance. This kit has an upgraded controller and 2x 7.5Ah batteries for increased power and runtime.

Would this be something you are interested in? I want to make sure you are taken care of.

I look forward to hearing from you!

I was shocked. The 40V HP BRUSHLESS 21″ WHISPER SERIES SNOW BLOWER WITH (2) 7.5AH BATTERIES AND CHARGER is $699 and they sent me one for free!

The unit had some damage to the knob used to adjust the auger speed so I asked if they could send me a replacement part and I would fix it myself.

Apparently it’s not an easy fix, so they sent me another snow blower. FREE! Same model, fully complete with the batteries and charger. I was floored!

This new model is better in every way.

  • Build quality of the machine feels much sturdier.
  • Larger batteries provide more power and runtime.
  • The handle folds away in one step instead of two.
  • Triggers to keep it running were replaced with the more traditional bar you find on lawn mowers.

I’ve had the chance to use this snow blower during a few different sized Michigan snow storms and it did a great job. It throws the snow much better than the other model and it didn’t miss a beat. The machine maneuvers so much better than a heavy gas snow blower and is actually fun to use. There’s no worry about it starting up, so I can just throw in the batteries, push start, and be good to go.

I quickly sold my Ariens gas snow blower, gave the “broken” Ryobi to my brother, and am enjoying the extra space in the garage. Isaac had an older Ryobi model and said this one is awesome.

One minor negative is the snow blower doesn’t come with any kind of shovel tool to clear snow out of the chute or auger. I came up with my own solution though.

Before I purchase a lawn mower I’m waiting to see if Ryobi releases one in their Whisper series before spring. If they don’t, I’ll buy one of their current models. The mowers fold up better to save even more space, which will be great.

This whole experience with Ryobi’s customer service makes me happy I switched to Ryobi a few years ago. It even pushed me to buy their cordless nail guns to replace my pneumatic ones last week. One of my shop projects after the kitchen is finished will be to build a system to better organize and store all of my cordless tools, so I’ll share my Ryobi collection then.

New Air Tools and More Storage

Yesterday I picked up a used 23 gauge pin nailer. I also used a mini die grinder for the first time, which had been sitting on a shelf in the package. Both tools needed places to live, so I made spots on my air tool wall.

I stopped at Harbor Freight and bought 3 sizes of pins for the new nailer. I also had some unopened boxes of various brad nails sitting around. I took the opportunity to reorganize my bins and more than doubled capacity. Seemed like a good place to move all of the regular nails too.

I love when everything in the workshop has a home.

Table Saw: Fence and Wings

It took me several more weeks to get to it, but the table saw upgrade I mentioned in my previous post is complete. I installed a new fence and built custom wings. These are huge improvements to the saw!

The road to get here was a bumpy one though. The fence is the 30″ 36-T30T3 made by Delta and it goes for $200. I ordered one from Amazon, which came banged up with holes in the box and missing parts. They sent a replacement and it was the same problem, so I returned both. Lowes sells the fence for the same price, so I ordered one and had it shipped to the store, hoping their delivery system would take better care of the box than UPS. It worked out and I received a complete box of parts.

I’m not going to go in to detail on the installation because it’s different depending on the type of saw you have and there are several YouTube videos and articles out there. My saw is a Craftsman 113.298032, which required some new mounting holes. Some people drilled in to the cast iron top, but I went the other way and drilled new holes in the fence rails, which I think is a much better way to go.

I made my wings using oak flooring for the sub frame (1 1/2″ tall) and 1/2″ laminate finished panels from Menards. Here are some pictures I took through the process.

Making a Better Jig for the General Tools Adjustable Pocket Hole Jig

Last year I bought the General Tools Adjustable Pocket Hole Jig (#854). I paid about $35 at Home Depot.

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I’ve found it a pain in the ass having to screw/unscrew the clamping mechanism. Without any dust collection, it makes a mess too. I figured I could come up with something similar to the pocket hole systems that run $100 or more. So I made a jig for the jig.

I bought a toggle clamp at an estate sale (maybe $3?), which has been sitting on a shelf begging to be used. The other material was scrap wood and a $1 can of white spray paint I wanted to get rid of. The build was sloppy, but I wanted something quick and dirty.

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The toggle clamp isn’t perfect but it seemed to work fine in my quick tests. I can’t believe how well the dust port works though. At the end of the video you can see a comparison between the original and my improved version.

The video is a really rough cut just like the build.

Improving a Delta Miter Saw: Part 3

If you haven’t seen the other posts, check out part 1 and 2 of this series about improving a Delta Sidekick 12″ Compound Miter Saw (Model 36-235).

With a fresh zero clearance insert plate, I wanted to move on to making a new fence for the saw. In the previous post I mentioned the cracked fence. It’s a significant one, so there was no fixing this.

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I forgot to take a decent picture of the fence before I took it off, but you can get the general idea from this old photo.

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After looking around, I found a YouTube video where someone had built a new fence and the shape of theirs was very similar to mine. It looked pretty straightforward and I had a few upgrade ideas of my own.

I jumped in by cutting four pieces of 3/4″ plywood to 4×36″ and glued them together. I clamped them to the edge of my work table, hoping it would flatten everything out.

On the table saw I squared up the edge that’ll be the face of the fence. Then I used the old fence as a guide to mark the mounting holes and some of the areas I need to trim. I’m going to have a secondary removable zero clearance fence, so I also marked the 4 original holes in the face plus two more since I’m building a longer fence (the 6″ left extension isn’t pictured below) that’ll overhang the edges of the saw’s table.

I moved over to the drill press and drilled all of the 1/4″ face holes. Then I used a 1″ Forstner bit with a depth stop to give the mounting bolt washers a place to rest. After that I was able to drill the rest of the way with a 21/64″ bit for the mounting bolts. I moved the bit over to a hand drill and made these holes oblong because they need adjustment room when aligning the fence.

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Back at the table saw, I trimmed the sides. I also did most of the long cuts along the back. I switched to the band saw to finish cutting off the back pieces and then I did a little sanding with the oscillating single sander. While I still had the middle in tact, I figured it would be a good time to chamfer the edges, so I knocked that out on the router table.

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In the video that gave me this idea, he used a band saw to hog out the middle area. I thought I could use the miter saw itself to do this. It would give the area nice shapes, keep as much of the fence’s structure as possible, and hopefully provide a nice ramp for sawdust to be directed out the back. So I attached the fence, squared it up, and made the first cut.

I immediately noticed I would need to remove the fence if I ever wanted to swap insert plates. I went to make the first miter cut and it wouldn’t rotate. I thought I might run in to this. I removed the fence and used the band saw to make room for insert plate removal. I also sanded off the bottom of the fence where it was making contact with the rotating part of the table.

That was all good but now the back of the saw was hitting the fence at 11 degrees each way because I went with angles around the back instead of curves. I made adjustments at the band saw and then still had problems with mitered bevel cuts. Instead of taking everything off again, I used a hand saw, chisel, and files on the left side. After a ton of adjustments, I was able to make all of the miter, bevel, and combo cuts.

The final piece to this was creating the removable zero clearance fence. I started with an old piece of reclaimed wood.

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I used my jointer to flatten the face and square an edge. Then I ripped it to 3-3/4″ and trimmed the sides with the table saw. I used the bandsaw to resaw it and then the planer got the rest of the way to the 3/4″ thickness I wanted. To finish it off, I chamfered the edges on my router table.

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I clamped the board to the miter saw fence and drilled through the back of the original 1/4″ face holes to make marks in this board. I also drew lines on the left and right of both fences as a reference to make lining them up easier.

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I shifted gears to make some knobs. I grabbed one from router table, traced it, and cut six of out of 3/4″ plywood on the bandsaw. Then I cleaned them up on the sander.

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Over at the drill press I cut a 5/16″ hole through the center of each knob. I set a 1/4″ T-nut on top and hit it with a hammer so the prongs would leave marks where I could drill starter holes. Then I applied some cyanoacrylate and pounded each T-nut in.

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I grabbed the zero clearance fence and drilled the 1/4″ holes all the way through on the drill press. Then I set a 3/16″ (I think) depth stop, switched to a 5/8″ Forstner bit, and drilled the same holes. This would make a recess for the head of the carriage bolt.

I put the zero clearance fence in place up against the big fence, fed the carriage bolts through their holes, added a washer, and tightened the knobs. Here is what they look like from the back.

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Tightened hard this first time so the square part between the head of the bolt and the threads would pull into the wood and the head would set into the recess. Everything was straight and square, so I made the first cut. After the cut was established in the fence, I was able to attach adhesive backed ruler to the top, based on the kerf.

I didn’t plan it, but a bonus of the higher secondary fence is a perfect place for clamping a stop block when making repeated cuts.

This was a really fun project and is going to be so much better than the old fence.

One more thing to improve on this saw is the dust collection, but that project is probably on hold for at least a couple of weeks.

Improving a Delta Miter Saw: Part 2

If you haven’t seen it, check out part 1 of this series about improving a Delta Sidekick 12″ Compound Miter Saw (Model 36-235).

I’ve been keeping a list of improvements I wanted to make to the miter saw and haven’t made time to work on any of them. When I made a frame a few weeks ago I noticed the fence to the right side of the blade wasn’t square. After looking things over, I found a large crack, which I’ll share in part 3. Now I had an excuse to prioritize the improvements and give the saw some love.

I removed several things from the saw and decided the first thing I’d build was a zero clearance insert plate. The original plate was a little beat up.

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I actually made two plates since it’s not much extra work. I can either use the second one for bevel cuts, which I don’t think I’ve done once since I bought the saw, or keep it as a spare. I really liked the natural wood look, but it’s better to paint them red to signify the dangerous area.

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Check out the difference in that slot! Cuts will be much cleaner and I’ll no longer have to worry about things clogging up underneath. The new inserts also fit much tighter than the original.

I used a piece of reclaimed pallet wood (oak I think) to make these. Here’s a video of the process, which took about 2 hours.

Check out part 3 of this series where I build a new fence.

Improving a Delta Miter Saw: Part 1

I’m starting on some improvements to my miter saw and realized I never posted anything about some of the things I’ve already done. I bought this Delta Sidekick 12″ Compound Miter Saw (Model 36-235) for $75 off someone on Facebook Marketplace last September. It’s not a sliding one, but the 12 inch blade is nice.

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I immediately bought a quality 12″ Diablo blade since there was only a 10″ in the saw. I also took the handle apart and replaced the mangled power cord with a 10′ extension cord I bought at Harbor Freight.

A few months ago I picked up a Masterforce folding miter saw stand from Menards. I think it was less than $80 during a sale. It’s been so nice to have the saw ready to go at all times.

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I recently cleaned up the sticker residue (was still there in the picture above) on the table and fence. I think that about covers it for what I’d done so far. Check out part 2, where I make new insert plates.

Sanding Station Drawers

I didn’t think I’d use all of the drawers in the sanding station, but I did.

Various hand sanding items and a sanding disc/belt cleaner

 

Discs for random orbital sanders and 1/4 sheets of sandpaper

Sandpaper sheets

Random scraps of sandpaper and pieces for a Black & Decker Mouse detail sander (really good use of the largest drawer)

Sanding drums for a drill and belts, discs, sleeves, and accessories for sanding machines

Random orbital sanders

Other hand sanders

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