Tool Buying

sanderBefore my woodworking hobby became as serious as it is today, when I bought a tool, I would go to a box store and bought what I thought was a good value on a good tool.  For many years, this worked well for me, especially as most of my projects were more DIY home improvement, where tolerances were a little more lax, and putty was available.  :)  Most of those tools were bought during the early years of my home ownership.  As much as I hate to say,  nearly all the power tools I bought during this period of have been replaced, over a period of the last 4-5 years.  Granted, these tools were bought for a different purpose and a much more limited budget than I have today, so in most cases it is hard to say I regret buying “x” tool because it did serve its purpose at one time, until my needs changed.  However, there were also some uninformed tool purchases over the years that I did regret.  Today, I take a very different view on my process for tool buying.

routerplaneSo what do I look for when buying woodworking tools today?  First lets look at hand tools.  When I buy a tool that I know I am going to get a lot of use out of, I tend to go for the premium tools.  My feeling is that these are truly once in a lifetime purchase, so I want to buy something that I know is held to a high standard of quality so that I can get that lifetime of usage out of it.  Also, a premium hand tool, while expensive, are easier to save up for than premium power tools.  I am not necessarily brand loyal when it comes to these tools, in fact my collection has tools from many different companies.  In fact, even though it is a premium brand,  I still do my homework on them.  Also, with hand tools, I think it is important to hold them in my hand and give them a try. Both Lie-Nielsen and Veritas travel around the country and give opportunities to take their tools to wood.  Typically, the one that feels best in my hands while using them is the one I buy.

bandsawWhen it comes to power tools, I would love to say I buy premium brand machines as well.  But, I can’t.  Unlike a premium hand tool which sells for a few hundred dollars, a premium machine sells for thousands of dollars, and lets face it, not all of us have the budget for these machines.  To make matters more challenging, very few places will let you fire up a saw and make test cuts right in the store, so getting a feel for a machine before purchase may not be possible.  I typically buy what I consider middle of the road machines.  With this level of machine, there are some real gems out there, but there are also some real stinkers as well.  To me, this is where it becomes vital to do my homework.  I still expect these machines to be long term purchase, and with this level of machine, this is feasible.  The first thing I look at is the construction and motor of the machine.  When possible I want the machine body, or at the very least the machines work surface to be cast iron.  The next thing I look at is the motor.  Is it a belt driven induction motor, or a direct drive universal?  The belt driven induction motor in most cases is superior to a direct drive system, with less vibration and more power.  Next, I look at what are the machines capabilities, and more importantly what are its limitations.  With the type of machines I buy, there are often trade offs to buying the premium version.  This can mean less power, smaller work surface, and possibly less precision & accuracy.  If I am willing and able to work around these limitations, that machine will go on my short list.  Finally, I check out reviews, forums, blog posts, and various other means of information about the machines on the Internet.  Once I have all the information I need, I make a decision on which tool I will buy.  :)

jointerWhen buying tools, it is possible to buy quality without busting your budget.  It may take some time to do your homework, as well saving up a little extra to meet your needs.  Most importantly, whatever you do buy, read up on how to safely use it, and them start making sawdust!

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Video 7 – Phone Stand

Download SketchUp 2015 File


This phone stand is a very and easy project to make.  I built the two stands from left over cherry from another project.  This is a perfect use from some of that scrap you have lying around the shop!  While I used my full complement of machines, this project can easily be built with a minimal set of tools.  These design of these stands can easily be modified for any size phone or even a tablet.  Have fun and enjoy!

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Get Woodworking Week 2015 – Video 6: Knick Knack Shelf



Download SketchUp and PDF Plans

jrhigh_shelfIt is Get Woodworking Week, a week that every woodworker should find time to get out to the workshop! Tom Iovino over at has organized this once again to help motivate us all to get out to the shop!  Realizing that many of us have garage shops that can only be heated for short period of times, it is worthwhile to find  projects that can be completed in a short period of time.  When looking for project to produce as a video for this week, I turned to one of my very first projects I ever made.  In 7th grade wood shop class we each made a knick knack shelf.  The shelf I made has been with me all these years since then and has a prominent spot on our mantel.  This project has very simple joinery that can easily be taken on by any woodworker of any skill level.  This project also fits the bill that it can be completed in a couple of days.

new_shelfThe wood I use in the video is cherry, largely because I have a lot of cherry in the shop.  This project can be completed with any wood species, including what the box stores sell.  If you have to buy pre-milled lumber, you will want to get 1/2″ thick boards.

A quick note on finishes.  If your shop is like mine, it is cold most of the time during the winter.  Most finishes do not cure well in cold weather, especially oil finishes.  As mentioned in the video, I used shellac.  The finish looks good, and it dries very quickly.

I had fun building this project, for a second time, and hope that you will as well!  Get out in the shop and get woodworking!

A quick thank you to Jason Beam, as he gave me some help in learning a new video editing program for this video!

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February 2015 Shop Update & Tool Gloats

We are about half way through winter, and that rodent saw its shadow, so we still have 6 more weeks of winter.  The good news is that the winter so far has been mild, and I have been able to get some shop time!  I have completed a couple small projects that I have completed, and they have been put on video!  Keep your eye out here on the blog, or on my YouTube channel for when the video’s are released.  I am not to a point where I can get a video out on a weekly basis, but I hope to get one or two out a month.

new_cameraOne thing I need to do is apologize for the last video, the audio was horrible.  The camera I have used for the first few videos was a small sports camera that has a microphone that isn’t very good.  The next video coming out I was able to improve the audio level, and there won’t be background music while I am talking.  However, the audio quality suffered a bit.  The good news is, I bought a new video camera!  I found one that didn’t break the bank but also has the ability to accept an external microphone, which will be a future purchase.  I ran several test videos with it, and even without using external mics, the audio level is significantly better.   I can even add back in the background music and voices will still be easily heard and understood!

tool_gloatThis past weekend I attended The Woodworking Show while it was in Columbus.  As always, they have classes and seminars their, and those were pretty good.  I was a little disappointed in the deals they had.  I have actually found that most of the deals are actually priced the same as retail locations.  Thanks to the power of mobile Internet, I researched each of my purchases to help determine if it was a good deal or not.  Probably the best deal I got was a new Bosch Random Orbit Sander.  The Bosch booth had an okay deal on it, but made it a great deal by also giving a Visa gift card right on the spot.  Of course I activated that immediately and used it at the show!  :D  With that I bought another Grr-Rip Block.  This one is #3 and will be used mainly at the router table, though it may find its way over to the band saw on occasion.  I also bought several lengths of T-Track that will likely be used for a drill press table I am planning on making soon.  I also bought some 1/4″ 20 star knobs.

That’s all I have for this month’s update.  Until next month’s shop update!

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Video 5 – Hand Tool Cabinet Drawers

htc_drawersI finally got around to making the drawers for my hand tool cabinet.  The woods I used to make these is cherry and poplar.  I haven’t yet applied a finish to them as it is currently winter and the shop stays too cold to allow the boiled linseed oil to cure.  I will likely do a follow-up video this spring with my applying the finish as well as adding some pulls to the drawers.  The construction does feature hand cut half blind dovetails.  Enjoy the video!

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