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Bedrock Tool – The Table Saw

The centerpiece of any woodshop, be it a small home hobby shop in a shed out back or a massive industrial operation, is a table saw.

No matter where a project is going to end up, the first step after having a design is to make the pieces that go into it the right size. It is rare that every piece of wood that you find in the local home center is going to have the dimensions you desire. Unless you are building a deck or a picnic table, you are going to have to take the pieces yu bought and cut them to various widths.

Thus, the table saw. Of course a table saw has many more uses than just ripping dimension lumber to size. making furnitureDepending on how good the saw is, perhaps much more. Since this decision will arguably affect every other thing you do going forward in your shop, it’s wise to take your time making a decision on just what to buy.

A viable option these days for the home hobby woodworker is a benchtop table saw, sometimes known as a portable tablesaw, or job site table saw. These smaller versions of the full size cabinet saw have come a long way over the years. Coupled with a good base (which many portable saws come with these days), a small table saw can perform virtually all of the functions of the heavy and difficult to move larger saws. And they can do it with precision that also approaches that of contractor saws.

A good portable table saw will come with a wheeled base and a gravity rise system that makes it easy to haul the saw from place to place, offers a firm base of operations at the  job site, and easily collapses into a package that can be stored in the corner.

When the time comes to set up shop at home, it can be wheeled from it’s storage  place, set up in moments and with the aid of a few roller stands, be cutting full size sheet goods and ripping dimension lumber in minutes. Many of the better saws will also have provision for dust collection, the ability to handle dado blades and zero clearance inserts.

Two things to look for beyond a good base, are power and the fence system. First – make sure that the saw you choose will have enough power to perform the operations you are likely to be doing (this is pretty much assured for all but the lowest of the low end saws.)

Second – much as the table saw is the center of the shop, the fence is the critical element of performing quality work with that saw. Choose the best fence system you can afford. It is critical to your ability to make accurate and repeatable cuts. It is not uncommon to find that you have to go back and reproduce s piece you have made, but for some reason will not work. If you have to fight with and inferior fence system, this simple task will become needlessly difficult and frustrating.

Happy hunting.

The Poor Man’s Planer

It’s not really fair to call a power hand planer a poor man’s planer. It really is not a fair comparison because it is only in the broadest sense that they perform the same function.The ultimate example of a perfect use for a hand planer is in the planing down of a door so it fits an opening it has grown too tight for. A person would be hard pressed to find a way to use a desktop planer for such a task.

warped doorThere is no doubt that a power wood planer is a very neat piece of machinery. It has a cool factor that an electric hand planer can never hope to match. But the hand planer has a utility that makes it one of those tools that you are very glad to own when you come upon a situation where it will do  job that no other tool can do. Or at least that no other tool can do as well.

An experienced woodworker with a practiced hand can do the job of planing down a door with an old fashioned hand plane in short order. But even for that individual, the electric planer can do the job more efficiently. Someone who doesn’t have the requisite experience will be happy to have the power version. A hand plane is a wonderful tool but it has its own foibles. It requires a deft touch, and even then it takes some experience to adjust it correctly. And that adjustment varies somewhat from situation to situation. Different wood species react differently and end grain vs straight grain is another thing that has to be considered.

A power hand planer is one of those tools that a serious wood worker really should have in their arsenal. Though for most, the situations where there is a need for one are not that common, a professional carpenter will have tools in his toolbox for just those situations. Much like an experienced automotive mechanic will have specialized tools available for problems that arise only occasionally.

The trick then becomes to decide on how often the tool might be used and how much you want to spend on one. Fortunately hand planers are not a very expensive tool as woodworking tools go. There are models available for well under a hundred dollars. And except for very specialized and very expensive tools, even the best ones are available for not much more than two hundred.

WooHoo! A Wood Planer

TABLE TOP PLANER

Forgive me if I seem excited, it’s just that I am.

I have finally added to my shop the tool I’ve been coveting for years – a table top planer like this one. I Like I said, I’ve wanted one over the years and over the years I have often been tempted to buy a cheap 12″ planer but 2 speed planermanaged to hold off. Not that I’m professing to think that there’s is necessarily anything wrong with more inexpensive choices. Depending on a person’s nature and needs, a cheap planer might be exactly the right choice.

Over time, however, I have learned my nature and needs, and I am often unhappy when I have given in to my more sensible side and saved a few dollars on tool. Any type of tool.

When I was finally in a position to buy the quality thickness planer that I wanted I went on a hunt for just exactly the right one. There are good models available from many of the reputable suppliers out there as well as from some of the best of the second tier manufacturers.

I spent several months actually deciding just what features I wanted or needed choosing a manufacturer. I admit to a bit of bias when it comes to machinery, perhaps because being around the trades has given me an impression of what the most  popular tools are for the tradesmen around me. That currently is DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, and to a lesser extent Delta, since it really focuses on larger tools and leaves the smaller hand type tools to the others.

I actually put Delta in league with Powermatic when it comes to shop tools. Powermatic, though, stays with high quality power tools and even if they did make a portable planer it would undoubtedly be out of my reach.

There are several reasons I ended up going with the DeWalt 2 speed planer rather than an offering by Delta or one of the others. For one thing the reviews are very positive. For another I find the four post design to look very robust, and like it would make the depth adjustment very accurate. I also like the way the depth measuring worked, that the lock was solid and that the adjustment wheel is large (I find the smaller wheels on some tools are too hard to operate to make repeatable fine adjustments easy), and the shutoff switch is a paddle, which is a safety feature that every bench tool should have on it.

Last but not least is the two speed option. Supposedly this allows for finer cuts at times by taking smaller bites, but in my limited testing I honestly can’t tell any real difference between the finish the two speeds achieve. Maybe in harder or furrier wood the extra setting might have benefit, but to be honest, if I was to advise a friend I would tell them to move this down on the list of features.

I am more than pleased to finally have the abilities that owning a planer give to me, and hope that soon I will be able to add a jointer to my collection as well.

There’s always  tool to look forward to. It’s an addiction that keeps on giving.

 

My Truck

Now what is the point of somebody writing about their truck for anyone to read. Especially if their truck isn’t something to write home about.

If you look at it that way there really is no point. But this blog isn’t necessarily just about putting stuff out there that has a point. It is about what I want it to be about. And in order for it to be about that, I am going to have to get to be a lot better writer than I am. And they say that the best way to get better at something is to practice it. So I’m going to practice. And that will be hard to do if I am constantly thinking about the fact that I have to write stuff that only has earth shattering relevance.

So about my truck.

If you look at it from the outside you’d see a truck that doesn’t look like much of a workhorse. It isn’t full size. It isn’t 4 wheel drive. And it certainly isn’t pretty. But that’s ok, it’s mine. And it does what I need it to do quite well. Though I am sure not to get it into places where I might not be able to get out of. I have spoken before about the fact that if you are serious about having a work truck it needs to be a 4X4. But then again, rules are made to be broken.

it hauls everything I need it to haul, and if it won’t then it’s probably something that I should be having delivered anyway. I holds a tool box that will hold all of the tools I use on a regular basis and it’s big enough to handle the tools I only need occasionally.

And best of all it’s rust free and can be upgraded easily. That means that I can dream of stuffing a big V8 in there and having a vehicle that would make my younger self envious. That matters since even at my age I love the feel of having power on tap, and it is still important to have dreams of building myself a custom ride.

For all it’s faults, it’s my truck and I really like it. Dodge is where it’s at. At least until Fiat really gets hold of it and turns the ram into something like a downsized Volkswagen pickup truck. Or that may not matter since I don’t really plan on ever owning a new truck anyway.

Let’s not even talk about electric. Even when the average base level electric pickup truck can beat the pants off of my old fashioned gas powered little truck, I will still drive one. No electric car will ever sound like the full throated roar of a V8.

And that is a sound that will never go out of style.

Pride

There’s a lot of pride to be had by finishing a hard days work and being able to look back and see what you have actually accomplished. If you see a finish wall that you spent the day on, or a field that is fresh black dirt where there was not the day before, you can actually know -know!- that you have accomplished something. Try that when you have spent the day putting little pieces of paper in a filing cabinet, or moved bits arounhd on a computer screen.

So many things that are called work today don’t have that honest component, the one that leaves you happily tired at the end of the day, content to relax for the evening before hitting the sack ready to get up again and do it the next day.

Maybe that’s why so many of the things that people do for hobbies on the wekends or of an evening involve those types of things. For guys that means doing things that involve building or fixing. Working with wood or on vehicles so that when they get done with a project they can actually physically haul somebody over to it and say “see, I did that”.

I’m sure the guys who build Angry Birds can impress people at parties with all their wealth, but really, is it the same as taking someone to a real log cabin you built with real logs? Nope. Wihen you have that beer at the end of that day, you’ll know you earned it.