Monday, July 11, 2011

High end vs low end

Well, it’s been a bit since I have blogged.  Apparently food poisoning and blogging don’t mix.  Any way I had thought I would start to outline the tools in my shop and thoughts about if they were worth it.  Then I realized that I had upgraded some tools since I first started and planned future upgrades already.  So I thought about the range of tools out there from high end pro tools to low end one time use types.  So what level of a tool should one buy? 
In my town we have a Home Depot, Lowes, 2 Menards, 2 Walmarts, and will soon have a harbor freight.  In addition we are a short drive to an acme tools and a rockler.  That means I can play with a range of complete crap to high end marvels.
If someone is just starting I would say don’t break the bank.  Mid range tools are fairly priced, or mid to high end treasures can be found cheap in the classifieds, on Craig’s list.  Heck, free hand me downs are also pretty cool.  But before you sink three grand on the delta unisaw, you should see if the hobby is something you are going to stick with.  So until you know if saw dust flows in your veins leave the pro tools to the pro’s.
Then again the old saying that you always cry when buying a tool, either when you pay for it or when you replace it is also good advice.  So my thought is to look at what you have first, what you can borrow second, and what you can buy third.  Do you have a drill or a circular saw?  If so don’t upgrade until they die or they fail to do the job.  When I first got married I got a cheap corded black and decker drill from a big box store.  It is still kicking and has yet to fail to drive a screw into hardwood.  One day it started to smell funny and I was sure it was going to die, so I bought a higher end corded Dewalt drill (which cost 50 dollars more then a new black and decker).  The funny smell stopped and the drill is still kicking. Functionally there is no difference.  There are things I like better about both drills, but for a DIY type or someone just starting the black and decker would have been a good call.  Save the 50 bucks for lumber.
Also remember some high end stuff is crap, and some low end products are hidden gems.  The question is how to tell the difference.  Read reviews and check out forums.  I like Lumber jocks, and  Look for common compliments or complaints on a product.  Lastly if you are on the fence between 2 products go to the store and handle them.  There are some nice tools that I have passed because I could tell the ergonomics were not right for me.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

TV Trinity

Who said nothing good comes from watching TV.  Three wood working shows (That I have watched) that really made me want to get to cutting.

1- New Yankee Work Shop.  I know alot of fine wood workers are less then impressed with some of Norm Abram's techniques and use of tools, but the projects seemed to look like something one can actually pull off.  Like every show on this list you never saw the piles of scrap wood used to set up the saw, or seen the amount of time to tweak his tools, but give the man a brad nailer and time and anything was possible.  Oh and I am pretty sure he is the only wood worker to ever be on the classic Animaniacs cartoon.

Next is David Marks.  His show "Wood Works" on DIY was probably the most technical shows on the subject I have ever seen.  Watching it left me thinking that projects can transcend function.  His explanation of techniques and demonstrations of how he pulled of his tricks was amazing.  He also introduced different materials and glues.  To me the projects were his means of expressing concepts instead of step by step instructions on how to put something together.

Lastly "The Wood Smith Shop" on PBS has been putting out some really good stuff.  This has become my favorite show, and now I get their shop tips magazine. The projects tend to emphasize different techniques and joints and their "Tips" are helpfull to a Newbee.  Also measured drawings and plans are free from their website.  I have put together their Slant Front Toolbox with a few slight modifications and really like it. I hop to post pics soon.


So I am a big fan of books.  Which is why my first several projects were shelves.  For wood working they are a good place to start.  For me, when I try to learn something new, its all about figuring out the jargon and vocabulary of the subject.  If I don't have a grasp of this I am at a loss when learning form TV, videos or other more advanced texts.  So I started with wood working for dummies.

I know alot of people chuckle at the dummies books, but the advice on tool purchases etc in this book are very useful.  Its a great spring board for future reading.  I still keep my copy around and refer to it on occasion.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A blog about an idiot with power tools

There are lots of wood working blogs out there, and I know some are far better then mine will be.  So whats my angle, what will make this blog different?  Well in short as of a few years ago I was all but a complete idiot.  Other then a shop class in high school my only exposure to building anything was prefab shelves from big box stores.  These shelves began to sag and fall apart so I thought I can do better, and I found an OLD craftsman table saw at a yard sale, and the adventure began. 

I am not sure how I managed to keep my fingers.  Even though I did not know the difference between a rip and a cross cut I set out to build a book shelf and learned a few good lessons...

1- Free hand cross cutting is a bad idea on a table saw.
2- kick back is not just a myth and can in fact dent siding  on ones house at 20 paces
3- Pine is a pain to stain
4- weekend projects always take more than a weekend.
5- Some mysterious force makes the shelf move out of square to the left or right depending on relative humidity and temperature.  I now know this is called wood movement, and is normal and not a sign of a haunting, or demonic shelf possession.

The picture ablve is not my saw.  That saw is long gone, but the model above is pretty much the same beast (I stole the picture).  I hope to take pics of the shelf and post soon.  So I am going to look at the tools I have (the good to the very bad), projects I have made (the fantastic to the plain F'd up), and lessons I have learned (and I will wonder how I am still alive).  Also I will post plans for those interested.