One of my absolute favorite pastimes is mental “shop building”. I dearly love shopping for tools. I love researching which ones are the best performing, longest lasting, best made.
What this can create, is a situation where many different configuration options become available to you. I can often times, put together at least three different “Plan A” variations on a collection of tools that would be ideal for my shop. It can be a great way to learn the different levels of quality and the different levels of versatility that the various tooling options can provide.
In my original shop set up, I had a wonderful European combination machine.
The above photo is not my old shop, but it is a picture of the combination machine I used to have. The Robland X31 is a Belgian made, 5 function combination machine. It is the combination of a 10″ table saw with a sliding table that makes cutting 4’x8′ sheet goods much easier. Sharing the fixed table with the saw, is a nice 3 horse power shaper. Next to that, is a 3 horse power, 12″ jointer which shares it’s cutter head with a 12″ planer. At the end of the jointer/planer’s cutter head is a chuck for a horizontal boring machine that works very well as a mortising machine. In a 6 square foot footprint, I had five, 3 horse power machines, that were of production level quality. It was a really nice machine.
This time around, I am building from the ground up once again. You may be asking yourself, “Self, why doesn’t he just buy another combination machine?”
While I would love to re-equip with another machine like my old Robland, there are a couple of factors that nix that idea from the get go. The first is that to buy another combination machine like my old one, is in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars.
The next is that the size and scope of my new shop space is such that, separate machines makes much more sense.
This actually makes things much more interesting for me. I now can research MULTIPLE MACHINES!!!! Oh Happy Day!!!
There are three, main machines that are “must haves” for a woodworking shop. Actually, there are about six or seven, but three that are the foundation of what is needed to efficiently work wood. The table saw, the jointer, and the surface planer. These three machines are what is required to mill stock into square, usable material. If you have these three machines alone, you could mill and dimension rough stock to the point where nearly everything else that needed to be done to the stock, could be done with hand tools. This is actually my plan moving forward. Until such time as I have my larger shop space either built, or leased, I plan to use a well thought out combination of machines and hand tools.
The first machine I was able to get my hands on was a really high quality Contractor’s table saw. Table saws come in a wide variety of sizes and capabilities. My ideal table saw is a three horse power General Canada 350, table saw.
Unfortunately, General Canada has moved most manufacturing operations over seas, and no longer makes the 350 the way they used to and finding a used machine in the states is both very difficult, as well as cost prohibitive.. So, I was relegated to Craigslist to try to find a serviceable machine.
As I thought out my situation, I settled on finding a contractor’s model table saw rather than the cabinet saw pictured above. Cost, size, and availability were determining factors. Initially, I was focused on finding an old Rockwell Model-10 contractors saw.
It would have enough power to do most of what I would be asking of it, and they are fairly plentiful. Trouble is, the owners of these saws on Craigslist, felt their machines were worth far, far more than they really are. plus, the “wings” on either side of the cast iron main table are made out of stamped steel…not ideal, but usable.
Finally, finally, I found the perfect set up. The perfect set up and it was so inexpensive, I t was like robbery buying this machine. After much patience and daily Craigslist stalking, I found a used, but not abused, General international 50-185M1 contractors table saw.
Two horse power, a FULL cast iron table, with a 52″ Biesemeyer rip fence. Yes, yes, I know all that sounds like gobldygook. All you really need to know is that this was a really, really well equipped saw for next to nothing.
Right around this time, I also found a machine that I never in a million years thought I would ever be able to afford, let alone own.
The Inca 510 – 550 – and 560 are all combination jointer/planers. 10″ jointer sharing it’s cutter head with a 10″ planer. Guitar builders, marqueteers, Turners and furniture makers have long been enamored with the little jointer/planer for years. It is Swiss made, finely built, and wonderfully engineered. This goes especially for the first generation 510.
So it was a Godsend to me when someone responded to my request on the Inca Yahoo group. The original owner was retiring and willing to sell for a price I just…could…not…pass up.
What a great machine.
So there are my three, foundational machines. In hand, and waiting for the rest of the shop to be cleaned out and for power to be brought over from the house.
Yes, there are a whole lot of other tools that need to procured. Hand tools, and some light duty machines too. But these three machines are a cracking good start to my new shop.
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