With the internet, there is so much information confronting the potential tool buyer today, that it’s almost
overwhelming. My philosophy is to consider buying the best quality tool you
think you could possibly afford, and then beg, borrow, or steal more
funds and buy even the next higher level of quality. On the net, I look a lot at tool comparisons, by people who
really know what they are doing putting the tools through some real testing.
These comparisons can be very useful and I applaud them. One of the most important
thing I've learned about my tools is to keep them in tip-top shape, sharp
and finely tuned. Even if it does take a little time away from actually
using them. This will actually save you time (and possibly an injury!) in the long run.
Let's get started the Right Way....
My Powermatic PM 66 Table saw and its accompanying large push-out table
forms the foundation of my shop machinery. Although damaged and out of adjustment
(probably from shipping to Alaska) when I first brought it home, I’ve now got it tuned perfectly and I’m quite happy
with its performance. I’ve thought about upgrading to the newer, 5hp model,
but the thought of potentially going through all that adjustment process
again is a big turn-off. As the table saw is the cornerstone of most of my
woodworking projects, having a dependable, high-quality, perfectly adjusted
machine is something I consider paramount. Equipped with a Forest Woodworker
II blade (which I regularly remove and scrub the residue off the teeth), the
saw just purrs along. I also do a considerable amount of dado work with the saw,
including all of my tenon cutting. I do a lot of my assembly work on the large push-out table, and find it
especially useful when clamping large boards together.
The right-side saw extension table also contains a router lift that I
really only use for cutting rabbits anymore. At one time, it seems I rounded
over every straight edge (or some other decorative edge treatment) on
every piece of wood. Now I've become more minimalist, enjoying my sharp
edges, especially on vertical pieces. I bought a shaper a couple of years
ago, not being able to resist a good deal. But the reality was that it was
rarely used and I finally sold it. I’ve also accumulated a fine collection of routers over the
years, but seem to use them less and less as I try to concentrate on
improving my hand skills. As much as I love my hand tools though, I
would however be hard pressed to cut tenons by hand and match the speed,
accuracy, and reproducibility the table saw (with dado blades) affords.
Try not to stand behind me...
This photo documents my one experience with a serious kickback from the
table saw. While ripping small oak stiles for a mission piece, one piece got
free from the push stick and shot back, making this ¼” indentation in the
chop saw bench edge behind me, just about groin height had someone been standing
there. Ouch! Of course, it was entirely my own fault for (1) not using a
fingerboard to rip such small pieces and (2) being momentarily distracted by
someone entering my shop. All accidents are preventable with just using a
little engineering forethought (fingerboards!) and applying your complete,
undivided attention to any running machine.
Let's drill some square holes...
My Powermatic 719T Tilt Table Mortiser is a very nice tool that easily does
all of my mortising. I upgraded to this from the model 701, which also
works well, but the ease of adjustment on the 719T, with the moveable bed controls, make
this model a joy to use. Whether cutting vertical mortises in a leg or
in a wide apron, setup is easy, the rock-solid bed holds the settings well
and makes cutting multiple pieces a breeze.
Do not argue with 55 spirally-arranged carbide teeth...
A few years ago, I made a decision to sell most of my little-used
tools and upgrade some of the tools that I use most frequently. The pull of
upgrading my power tools had been felt for sometime and finally became too
strong to resist—especially when my local power tool deal had some
incredible deals in the making. The dealer had some new, but excess Oliver
machinery available at a great deal. Oliver was the standard power tool when
I was going to High School Shop classes, 40 years ago, and was making a sort
of resurgence in the tool market. There was a beautiful Oliver 12” table saw
available at a screaming deal, but I would have had to rebuild my out-feed
bench in order for it to fit, as well as upgrade wiring and dust collection
systems. As the second most-utilized power tool in my shop is the
jointer, upgrading to a 10” Oliver 4240 jointer with a Byrd Spiral Cutterhead I
saw as a great opportunity. The old 8” Grizzly was adequate for most
applications, but the smoothness, power, and long bench on the new Oliver
makes it a dream to work with.
Easy to take some off, but hard to add it back....
I had also been coveting a newer planer for awhile, something beyond
the portable bench top models I’ve been using for so long, and decided to
make the move to a larger, stationary model. After some research and cost
comparisons, I chose the Grizzly G0453Z 15” with a spiral cutterhead, having
been very satisfied with most of the Grizzly tools I’ve used in the past. The
tool arrived rockin' and rollin’ in it’s shipping crate, with part it
protruding through the side of the plywood box. That should have been my
clue to reject the shipment, but mistakenly I took it home, and upon
uncrating, found that the top rollers were broken off, as well as other
minor damage. It had been shipped on a flimsy, broken pallet and I suspect
allowed to topple over somewhere in transit. In my calls, emails, and
photographs to Grizzly, I insisted upon delivery of a completely new tool
(not knowing what else might be broken or out of alignment) and they finally
made it right. This one was shipped stoutly attached to a new pallet and was
in perfect condition. After all of that, I can say that the tool is a joy to
use and I’ve been very satisfied with the response from Grizzly.
Move the Whole Table instead of just the Work...
I like to use my table saw (instead of the chop saw) and its’ adjustable
miter fence for doing most of my crosscuts, including cutting pieces to an
accurate length and cleaning up the shoulders on tenons that I’ve cut on the
tenon jig. As the fence (and width of the table saw top) limits lengths to
about 24 inches of accuracy, I’ve been eyeing a sliding table saw extension
for awhile. Seeing the box of a new Excalibur collecting dust for some time
at my local dealer, we settled on a good deal for the woodworker and
brought home the tool to my shop. The first thing I noticed was that the
installation instructions were missing from the box, but an email to General
Tools was rewarded promptly with the complete instructions attached.
This was not an easy tool to install. I had to modify several parts of
the saw, including using a metal cutting saw to shorten the heavy duty angle
iron and channel iron that support the saw's sliding fence. All in all, it took me
about 2 days to get the extension installed and accurately adjusted to
produce smooth and perfect cutoffs. But, boy was it worth it. I can’t say
enough about how much I enjoy using the slider, obtaining perfect cuts on
pieces as small as a few inches, on up to several feet in length. It also
allows me to conveniently slide the fence out of the way to rip wider boards
or easily pivot the fence (on the post nearest to the saw table) to produce
miters-- and then return it accurately by just twisting of a couple of
And now they have an Ad Bragging about their Welders...
All of the machines are also connected to my Oneida
dust collector, with only having to make a few gate adjustments when
switching from one machine to another. I purchased this dust collector
directly from the manufacture and, while doing the assembly, I found the
upper manifold had been welded 180 degrees off-center and didn't line up
with the base. A call and some emailed-pictures to Oneida, explaining my
assembly dilemma, and they promptly sent a correctly manufactured piece
(one does wonder about quality control with these companies sometime).
The unit works well, providing plenty of suction to remove the chips and
dust from the machines. But the filters are not easy to clean and the
dust drums fill up quickly.
Made in Italy, like a Ferrari, but....
My Laguna 16 HD Band Saw has been more than adequate
for my needs, for both cutting curves and resawing. Made in Italy, as are
many of Laguna’s tools, it is smooth, plenty powerful and has been
trouble-free so far. My only complaint was that a little wider table would
go a long way for ease of use, especially with larger pieces and especially
as I cut all my dovetail tail boards on this saw. Having a extra leaf
from my Powermatic Table Saw after adding the sliding table extension, I recently
attached the leaf to the side of the band saw to give me a comfortably-large
surface for my tail board jig. I also replaced the blade with a new Resaw
Wood Slicer (Wood
Slicer from Highland Woodworking) that has made Resawing so much
nicer. I can highly recommend these blades.
Spokeshaves make a lot less dust...
While I don't use my spiral sander a lot, when there is the need for
smoothing an arc, my Grizzly G1071 performs admirably to accomplish the task.
The large table and smooth, vibration-less operation, and large dust-port
make this machine quite satisfying to use.
Euphemism for Unique; Hard to Make Two that are Exactly Alike...
This Delta 46-460 12 1/2" Variable-Speed lathe is a rather new addition to my shop, as I come late to the
lathe-using game. I really only purchased it to make custom knobs and it
has certainly filled that void in my tool lineup. This tool received some
rather glowing reviews from FFW and others and it was actually rather
difficult to find one that didn't involve back ordering. I finally found
one from Amazon and it arrived with a broken on-off switch because of the
rather careless packaging. Delta had me take it to a Dewalt Service Center
for repair under warranty. It took over 2 months for them to acquire a new
switch. I had read complaints about the scarcity of parts for this tool
among the reviewers before purchasing, not thinking I would be one those
waiting. Now, after spending some time with it, I can say that this is a
really nice tool to use, being very smooth and easy to
adjust the variable speeds by knob or changing the belt position. I
added the NOVA chuck for turning knobs and it has worked flawlessly.
Investment in American-made Brass and A-2 Steel...
Using a sharp, high-quality hand plane to slice away micro-thin layers of a
beautiful wood like cherry is a labor of pure joy for me. And nothing will
quite reveal the true grain character of a species like the new surface
exposed from a few strokes of perfectly-tuned plane. On the other hand using
a dull, poorly made plane will only lead to frustration, cursing, and an
endless amount of sanding. When I started accumulating my planes, I went for
the best and have never looked back. Lie-Nielson is one
of those rarities anymore—a purely American manufacturing company whose
focus on making the highest quality hand tools possible has never wavered.
Yes, a bit more of an investment money wise, but the reality is that I don’t
need a large number of planes—just a few can get most of the work done.
I read an
by Lonnie Bird regarding how just having a couple of low-angle, bevel-up
smoothing planes is really all that is required for most planning
operations. The key was substituting blades with different secondary bevels
in order to match the plane to the grain of the wood being worked—the more
figured and courser the grain then the higher the secondary bevel on the
blade. As I already had a couple of Lie-Nielson smoothing planes (#62 and
#164), I ordered 2 new blades for each of them, which they custom ground (at
no additional charge) at the secondary bevels of 38 and 50 degrees. And true
to Lonnie’s word, having these two planes with the optional blades has
satisfied most of my needs. My plane selection also includes a
low-angle block plane, low-angle rabbit plane (very handy for cleaning up
tenons), and a shoulder plan for close, inside work.
Ford vs BMW-- No Contest...
I also much prefer my few Lie-Nielson chisels (those on
the left, in the photo) over the larger selection of German-made Two-Cherries. The sides
of the Lie-Nielson chisels are ground at a single bevel on the sides (as compared to the
compound bevel on most others) which makes them especially useful for doing
the close-in work of hand-cut dovetails. I also like the feel and balance of
the smooth hornbeam handles (although I have had trouble keeping them on
some of the chisels occasionally).
Does Anybody Really Enjoy Sharpening?...
My Sharpening Station consists of a Grizzly water-cooled wheel sharpener for creating a concave
blade end and an
Ohishi combination Water Stone from Lie-Neilsen. These stones cut
very quickly and are the best I've found for day-to-day plane and chisel
sharpening and can be stored dry. The blade holder for sharpening chisels and plane irons
is also from Lie-Neilsen, an expensive but very useful tool.
The Grizzly T10097 Sharpener is one of the few Grizzly tools that is only minimally
acceptable by my standards. The tool was out of adjustment (and difficult to keep in adjustment) and
the stone needed dressing, right out of the box. But for the price (especially compared to a
Tormek) it gets the job done.