“Shop Growth” or “So Many Tools, So Little Time”

So among the various goodies of my shop I have a vast assortment of tools that I had salvaged from my father and various other places. He isn’t big into hand-tools any longer (or so I tell myself) so I borrowed many of them. I have a few power tools that I found under the wood pile when I bought the place, but those are about in as good of condition as you would expect. Having done a preliminary inventory in my head, based upon photographic evidence once my shop was reasonably organized, I am noticing some considerable gaps in the assortment of my options, here.

Having spent the past several years studying some of the great minds in the online woodworking community, like The Wood Whisperer, WoodWorking for Mere Mortals, This Woodwork, Matthius Wandel, John Heinz, The Drunken Woodworker, Stumpy Nubs, Darbin OrvarApril Wilkerson, The Renaissance Woodworkerand many others, I notice certain trends in a production woodworking shop, like my ambitions. I learned a great deal from those folks, and lacking some of the tools that they’ve used and some tools that I would need to implement the tricks, tips and tactics that I’ve picked up in half a lifetime of pure research and a little dalliance now and again into the craft… frustration doesn’t really capture it.

Among my assorted hand-tools, I’ve found several cross-cut handsaws of varying lengths, coping saws, flush-trim saws, mortise saws, tenon saws, hack saws, bow saws, (lotsa saws), hammers, screwdrivers, chisels, sharpening stones, sandpaper, wrenches, ratchets, pliers, 4 assorted hand planes, a rasp plane, levels, measuring tapes, surveyors tapes, two or three axes, a machete, carpenters brace (old-timey-hand-powered-drill) assorted Nails (1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, and 6″) in various quantities, assorted screws in various sorts of repair. I try to salvage what I can from pallets I dismantle and other projects I’ve hauled apart, since recycling is both environmentally and financially responsible!

My father handed-me-down some corded power tools, like a grinder (with assorted disks), a power drill (with two settings, off and holy-shit-frig-fast), an 8″ circular saw, a jig saw, VERY light-duty scroll saw and various attachments for each. My uncle gave me an 8″ mastercraft compound mitre saw (not sliding), but I lost the belt in that one and need that replaced before I can use it. I found a couple of rickety old 8″ contractors saws with a weak motors in the wood pile, they WORK, in the strictest sense of the word, but have no fence, no blade guard, and only work when the planets are aligned in just the right way.

I have no cordless power tools. No working compound mitre saw (chop-saw) and no table saw (of any sort). I’ve got lots of tools, but without the ones that I am most comfortable/skilled at/with, I am unsure how to proceed with my work. I’ve used hand-saws and hand-held circular saws to crosscut lumber and made that bench with a door-top, that was alright. I’ve used hand-tools to fashion a wood box to store some scraps and cut-offs for when I get the chimney repaired and the morning chill takes hold of my days… but what would make my work really efficient would be a table/contractors/bench saw with rails to make custom sleds. A cross-cut sled would virtually eliminate the need for the compound mitre saw. A 45″ mitre sled would do the same, and make REALLY fast work for corners when I make some picture-frame commissions I’ve got coming up. I could also make/buy joint jigs like Matthius Wandel’s (of http://www.Woodgears.ca) “screw advance boxjoint jig”, which would inspire me to make boxes (With box-joints) just for the sake of making them! Check them out!

I’d love a 10″+ bandsaw, I’d love a thickness planer, a jointer would be swell… and I’ve been dying to try a lathe. What’s really killing me is my salary being cut in half from my seasonal job ending, and all the added costs of living in a Rural sub-arctic climate like ours. I fear I shall be relying on revenue from the CNC Router to supplement my shop development and commissions I can claw together from here and there. I feel like a little bit of a tool (pun intended) by having so many tools and complaining about my lack of more, but when your skills are not as strong in what you have as what you would like… I feel it warrants mention.

I also lack many of the solid raw materials, like sheet-goods and good lumber. I’ve got 3 sticks of 2″ x 4″ x 12′ board left over from my dog fence project, and the work bench; since the garbage box was purely made out of pallet wood and recycled nails, that’s a moot project for this paragraph. Lots of hand tools and little wood of reasonable quality remains a hurdle. Pallet wood is rough-cut, often split to pieces, but seldom rotten. I’ve got a hand plane, but the sharpening stones I’ve got are curved from years of knife and axe sharpening, and are not exactly appropriate to the low-tolerance sharpening of a planing iron.

It’s all very frustrating. Any one improvement would open the door, so to speak, to a world of possibilities, like a tablesaw or some good rough materials. Building a lumber rack would consume the best of what I’ve got, and be more of a hassle than I’d like. I’d only be able to put up the pallet wood, and even then most of it is only fit to burn. I need to borrow someone’s truck to retrieve more pallets from the local building supply store where I get them, and that can be a hassle in it’s own right. I don’t like to borrow when I could “make do”, call it pride or not, but I’d rather be the one doing the providing than being the mooching neighbor.

I did manage to wire up some duplex receptical boxes and repair some ceiling fluorescent lights that remained after I had moved-in and needed some minor adjustments or replacement bulbs. Dangling from the rafters 11′ off the ground is not exactly my idea of a good time, especially when I have all the fall-arrest training and none of the equipment. Haven’t taken a tumble yet, *knocks on wood*.

While cleaning today I cracked the handle off of the 12″ deck broom, and haven’t repaired that yet. I need to get some heavier cord for the block and tackle system to raise the top half of the garage doors, but I DID manage to use up an entire duplex outlet for my AC-powered speakers and my iPhone4 (yes, boo, hiss, I know) to act as a jukebox. That makes the daylight hours that I putter away in there a little easier… also acts as a siren’s call to lure my neighbors over for a chat, but that isn’t entirely unwelcome in the early doldrums of my shop.

I’ve often heard people, like Marc Spagnuolo of The Wood Whisperer and Steve Ramsey of WWMM with sponsors, you know the opening or closing credits, “This video is brought to you by MICROJIG” or “Special thanks to POWERMATIC”, etc, etc. There are other options like Subbable which Steve uses, but insofar as product placement and that sort of thing, I’ve begun considering that on my own. I’m no where near the point when any billion-dollar trans-national tool company gives a shit about whether my program lives or dies, but I would like the way paved so that I can ascend to that level once they feel comfortable with it. Who knows? DeWalt may simply say, “He’d need a youtube channel or a blog with at least 10,000 views per week before we even consider it.” Great, then I’d have a goal. I happen to LOVE DeWalt; the idea of going (nearly) all cordless for in-shop work strikes me as a super-keen idea. Better-still is the idea of ALL my tools being 18V so all the batteries are interchangable. I could imagine a DW660 in my CNC machine, a DC720KA for my cordless drill, DC390B for my cordless skillsaw, DWE7480 for my table saw and so on… all cordless tools using DC9096 batteries. That would make me very happy. Besides, DeWalt has always been a favored tool among my family, for those of us who cannot afford Husqvarna, Porter Cable or Festool for all of our goodies, it’s a solid contractor-grade tool for most of the common worker’s needs (mileage may var)y. I’d rather spend a little more to buy a tool that I know is rugged-enough for my work, and the little extra cost is worth it for the added convenience of having a bank of 4-5 chargers and a dozen batteries ready to swap out and fire the dead one into the charging station. I like the simplicity. Would simply be a dream if they saw my videos/blog in a year and noticed all the black and gold, and dropped me a friendly email, “Want some free tools for some ad-time?” A guy can dream.

I think that about wraps up my whining/ranting/preaching this evening. Please feel free to comment about your own experiences, or any tips, advice or corrections you wish to subject me to 😛 I welcome feedback as a means of self-improvement. Don’t be shy!


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