There seem to be two different approaches to setting up shop. One method is to buy the tools you think you need based on the work you are doing or want to do. The other way is to buy tools as you need them. I am quite firmly planted in the buy as you go camp. Part of this was economics. When I developed my interest in woodworking, my spousal approved budget was under $500. With that - I had to buy tools and actually make something worthy of putting in the apartment (surprisingly… or embarrassingly - we still use it - see below).
For me, “buy as you go” is also a result of being self-taught. I have no clue how to use a vacuum veneer system - so I am certainly not going to go out and invest the money in something I know nothing about. So I wait until I am faced with, or about to be faced with the need for a particular tool.
My lefty workbench is a perfect example. There are 10 drawers - and I decided to take the time to continue my adventure down the hand cut dovetail path. I used a mediocre dovetail saw for the entire job and when I was done - I bought an Adria dovetail saw
. My logic was now that I understand what goes into hand cutting dovetails - I had a better understanding of the tools I would need for the task. The saw arrived - it worked perfectly, and I really do think my dovetails improved (I can cut them quicker and more accurately).
This past October, I finished off the sunroom
- a post will follow, but the above photo will give you an idea. There were fourteen 4'x8' sheets of 3/4" veneer core cherry plywood in that wee little room. I do not use a whole lot of sheet goods - but this project was all about sheet goods. I have a decent “yellow” table saw, and took a day to build a large out-feed table so I could at least rip a few sheets down to size.
The trouble was most of the cuts ended up being crosscuts - something I could not safely do with my table saw setup. Given that I work alone - I really didn’t have much choice but to break down the sheets to more manageable sizes with a fence and a circular saw. This was perhaps the most frustrating woodworking experience I have ever had. I have a typical circular saw - light weight and tears up plywood something fierce. Even pre-scoring the veneer, putting masking tape over the cut - nothing worked. So I ended up breaking down the sheets a little oversized and then cutting them to the correct dimension on the table saw. This might not have been too bad were it a single sheet or two... but 14 sheets... I nearly lost my mind (and chucked the saw out the door).
Now that I know what does not work – it was time to find a solution for the next time.
Let me back up for a moment. My friend Steve helped me install a walnut floor in the sunroom. We used air-dried black walnut from a local sawmill - 3/4" thick T&G… and it is magnificent. The room is small - 10'x13', so renting a sander seemed like overkill. Steve said “no problem - I already have the sander”.
The next day he showed up with this funny looking R2
in tow. The sander had arrived! It was a Festool CT22 and the Rotex 150
We took the sander upstairs and Steve started to sand. I kinda freaked out because the door was wide open and neither of us had put out drop cloths or had dust masks. He just smiled and continued sanding.
“Is it broken?”
“where is the cloud of walnut death?”
“where it should be - in the CT22.”
And that was it - I had seen the light. We proceeded to sand the entire floor with that sander, and in the end there was no dust to sweep up or vacuum, heck... our knees were still clean! Steve commented that when laying floors, sometimes he has to add dust to help fill in the odd gap between boards. Until now - I had not heard of Festool, and spent the next hour grilling him about Festool and their product line-up.
The entire Festool system is based on efficient dust collection. Actually... “efficient” does not cover it... total removal is more accurate. It is strange how we have all just accepted that dust is a reality of working with wood - and we have gone to great lengths to protect ourselves with white jump suites, dust masks, oxygen tanks... when the solution is just to collect it before it can escape. All of my large machines are hooked up to a cyclone, but all my hand held power tools are dust creating nightmares. I do very little sanding and will go to great lengths to avoid it - but sometimes it is unavoidable. As soon as I saw the Festool sander and dust collector in action - I knew I was going to invest in one (I am told it is not called a dust collector but rather a “dust extractor”).
I am calling this a system because it best describes it - a system of thinking about working in a dust free environment. What a revelation! They have a plunge cut circular saw that produces a cut as smooth as my table saw (with a Forrest II blade) - no dust. It has tracks of various lengths for breaking down sheet goods - man could I have used this for the sunroom! The routers - works with the track as well... no dust. And the Domino. no dust. I was convinced.
For some reason - mention Festool on any woodworking forum, and it polarizes people within three posts. There are people who view their products as overpriced and overhyped, and then there are those that see them as high value tools and could not imagine working without them. Ponder this - even if the tools themselves are only as good as the competition - isn’t the dust extraction capability a compelling deciding factor? If someone said you could replace your extra dusty $100 ROS with a $200 dust free version wouldn’t you do it? I would… in a heartbeat.
Exit soap-box and back to the point of all this.
I am a big fan of supporting those toolmakers and vendors who take the time to venture out and get in front of people to show their products. Several years ago I was looking for my first bandsaw - and decided to buy a Laguna
simply because they took the time to come to the Toronto woodworking show and I felt it was important to support them.
My friend Dan Clermont
from British Columbia contacted me a month or two ago to let me know he was going to be at the Toronto woodworking show introducing Festool to Southern Ontario. I was thrilled to hear it - and decided to join the Festool army with Dan at the helm. There is a Festool distributor much closer to me – but I have never seen them at a show (or knew about them until a year ago) and will support Dan because he taken the time to be active within the woodworking community.
Jill and I have been slowly planning the next phase of our renovation project –the living room. Among other things – we are looking to install a quarter-sawn white oak herring bone floor, inlay in the border – the whole nine yards. My recent Festool purchases are a combination of tools that I know I need – and ones that I know I will need for this next job. I can’t wait to get started... and dare I say... sand something?
Anyone want a dusty, lightly used ROS?