Monthly Archives: May 2015

Do Not Be Discouraged

Amazing to me how timeless this passage, reblogged from the lost art blog, is. In modern shops, these maxims still hold true to this day. Even as I started my woodworking career decades ago, every one of these observations were as true then, and today, as I suspect they were back in the “olden days”. Must read for aspiring professional woodworkers.

Lost Art Press

word_to_apprenticesDo not let artisans discourage you from learning this or that trade because they have not made a success of it. They may tell you that a certain trade is overcrowded. Investigate a little and you will find that only the botch workman and chronic kickers are out of work. The cheerful, enthusiastic workman is idle only when misfortune overtakes the whole country.

We have here hundreds of mechanics who have no real heart in their work, and no sort of interest in the welfare of their employers. To be discharged is considered no disgrace, and to be in debt is no cause for worry. They work while the eye of a boss is upon them, and kill time when it is not. They growl at the workingman’s condition, but are solely responsible that they are not better off.

You will find them in one shop this week and in…

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Killing Two Birds With One Stone.

This post will be somewhat of a “cheat”. It is a cheat, but also appropriate as I am combining two posts into one.

The next two machines needed for this hypothetical “Tiny Shop”  are the jointer and planer.

When I first outfitted a shop, long ago, I elected to do so by purchasing a European combination machine. It was the old Robland X31 offered by laguna tools. it was a 10″ sliding table saw, 3hp Shaper, 12″ jointer , 12″planer and slot mortiser all in one machine. it was a remarkable piece of engineering even though it was at the bottom of the combination machine market at the time.

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It also confirmed for me the value of combination machines in the modern wood shop.

This is a philosophy that flies in the face of  the normal American ethos of  “More is better”. More separate machinery equals a better equipped shop. I am here to tell you, that is not always the case. Especially in tight quarters.

All this leads me to the subject of this post.

I am of the considered opinion that, in a confined shop space like the one proposed for this exercise, combination machines are an excellent way to get better versatility and capability than you might be able to with separate machines.

I am so convinced of the combination machine’s  value in the small workshop, that when it came to buy for my own shop, I set out to find a machine that I had lusted after for years, but could never afford. The Inca 510 jointer / planer.

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So it is with the hypothetical shop that I recommend another combination machine. This one also happens to be from Grizzly, but there is actually a fairly good selection of combination machines available out there these days.

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The Grizzly Jointer/Planer is a good template for this type of machine. It bears very close resemblance to Belgian, German, Swiss, and Italian  versions of this combination of machines. Jointer beds on top, sharing a cutter head with the planer bed below. Jointer beds flip up to convert to planer mode. The footprint made even smaller and less invasive into a small shop by positioning the jointer’s fence on the end of the infeed table rather than the conventional center mounted arrangement.

These particular machines, while Asian clones of the wildly more expensive European counterparts, have a loyal fan base here in the States. Reviews of the Asian combination machines in general, and Grizzly in particular have been mostly glowing. The exceptions being Asia’s attempts to clone the Inca machines.

The more of these machines that find their way into the small professional shops and increasingly better equipped hobby shops, the more I think that American’s will embrace the logic and versatility of combined machines.

To be able to have the capability of a 12″ jointer (a dedicated 8″ jointer being a luxury in most small shops)  and a 12″ planer (plenty wide enough for most small shops) in less space than one dedicated machine might normally take up, is truly a godsend. A godsend only if the machines can provide the means to square a board precisely.

In Grizzly’s  jointer / planer offering, the consensus among those that own them  is,  that Grizzly has been able to provide a high quality combination machine at a cost that makes them attractive and viable options to those looking for a way to have the capability that a larger shop enjoys, but not at the expense of an inordinate amount of precious floor space.

In my opinion, for a small shop, there is a very strong case to be made for putting a combination jointer/planer into service rather than separate machines. this is both from a financial perspective as well as a logistical perspective.

For me and my hypothetical “little Shop” I would choose the Grizzly in a New York minute as my jointer and planer.

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The Table Saw … or … Where everyone begins.

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In a woodworking shop, the 10″ , 3 horsepower, 220v, single phase table saw is usually the cornerstone. It is also, usually, the first machine purchased.

At one time there were numerous vendors that manufactured and sold this venerable machine. Names like Oliver, Powermatic, Rockwell, Boice Crane were all names that would be among the very first to come to mind when considering a table saw purchase.

While some of these companies still exist, they exist pretty much in name only. The landscape for upper end hobbyist and lower to mid level professional woodworking machinery has changed drastically in the last 15-20 or so years. Companies have gone under, restructured, or been bough out. Some old and trusted names , long out of business, have been resurrected and being used to sell machinery again, but machinery that in no way reflects the construction methods or quality of materials that their namesake would lead you to believe were being used. So great diligence is required if a new table saw purchase is in the offing.

To start with, the above specifications are what I will be using to rough sketch  what I would be looking for .
Cabinet construction rather than an open base, to give improved dust collection capabilities and provide heft for smoothness of operation and to help maintain precision.
A 10″ blade capability is the minimum in my view, as it is the industry standard for a saw like this.
3 horsepower/220v/single phase power is also a minimum requirement in order to provide the most versatility for a saw of this size. Any bigger, or more power hungry, and we really start venturing into industrial strength territory.
A good, solid rip fence is needed. Something made by Biesemeyer or one of the better clone fences will do nicely. The design is trusted and proven in decades of use in shops far and wide. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.
I will be using the example of a table saw that has something along the lines of a 30″ rip capacity. Any of the saw choices I discuss here have the option of greater rip capacity, usually up to about 50-52 inches. I am using the 30″ to both save costs in this exercise, and to take into consideration the very tight quarters of the hypothetical shop.(20’x12′)

Using these criteria, there are several saws that come to mind right away. The Powermatic PM66 (PM2000 now) The Delta Unisaw, The Jet Exacta line of saws and the Grizzly G-1023 or G0690.

To my knowledge all of these saws are manufactured in Asia. Read that again……ALL of them are manufactured in ASIA.

While I may very well be in error here, the only SUBSTANTIVE differences between these saws are cosmetic, and also in their cost. In fairness, the upper end of the price scale does have some features, including longer warranties, that the lower end does not. For example, the Powermatic or Delta machines may have a higher end and thus, much more expensive motor, or their castings may be from different molds, or their specification requirements may be different than the lower end machines. In some peoples eyes this may equate to justification for a Powermatic 3hp table saw to cost north of $3K verses the $1500 or so a Grizzly will command delivered to your house.

If I were to choose today, I would select either the Grizzly G1023RL or the Grizzly G0690 as my jumping off point.

The significantly lower price tag certainly is a major consideration, no question about it. However, the saw(s) offer a whole lot of bang for the buck in my book.

First a little history.

When I first started woodworking, Grizzly Industrial Tools was, for lack of a more delicate description, the bottom of the barrel. They were dirt cheap, and had the reputation for requiring a LOT of tweaking (read modification) to get them to work right. They were notorious for having castings that would warp and flex, and would be absolute nightmares to keep in tune. BUT…they were also affordable for the novice woodworker on a tight budget, and if a guy was really lucky, he could stand a good chance of getting one pretty close to useable right out of the crate. While not ideal, Grizzly DID make it possible for scores of beginners to get started in woodworking and do so with something other than cheap, plastic, disposable tooling. For this one fact alone I give Grizzly all the kudos in the world. For, without them, many, many would be woodworkers would have been priced right out of the market.

Today, Grizzly in NO WAY resembles the Grizzly of old. Their customer service is considered to be among the very best in the world. They stockpile both the machinery and, more importantly, the parts for their machines right here in their two facilities here in the U.S. They also stock parts here for machines that were sold decades ago. In other words, they have adopted the same type of support model that Delta (Rockwell) had for years and years.

The company has also listened to their customers over the years. The castings are now flat and true. Stuff works right (for the most part) right out of the box. Countless accounts of jointer beds being dead flat and spot on co-planer right from the crate. Table saw tables dead flat and ready to go upon delivery. If there is ever an issue with the machine, the consensus is that Grizzly WILL make it right. This being something that can be counted on.

All this and a machine that does what it says it will do at a price that reflects a realistic pricing model. It’s kind of a “no brainer” .

As between the two Grizzly offerings mentioned above, it is pretty much a coin toss. According to conventional wisdom, you can’t go wrong either way. Both models have established track records and legions of happy owners. Kind of like the Powermatic and Delta owners of yesteryear.

Everything I am told or read, coupled with my own personal experience with these machines, tells me that , bang for the buck this is the way to go. I can not justify spending nearly $2K more for a machine that is AT LEAST on par, and in some peoples mind, actually below the quality of the Grizzly offerings. I also can’t see spending that much more for a machine made by a company that, in my view, is charging a premium simply based on the color of the paint and the brand name. I just don’t think there is ENOUGH difference between the machines to warrant the extra expense.

The Grizzly machines are, in large part, clones of time tested versions from other manufacturers. This is were it does get a little “hinkey” for Grizzly. By and large, they took existing designs and cloned them. Nothing earth shattering or innovative about any of these designs. But they are affordable, the level of quality is acceptable, and the cost to benefit is wonderful. They work, plain and simple. Finally, Grizzly continues to make tooling available to those that might not otherwise afford it…..only these days, the level of quality is much, much better than it once was. Bonus!

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To Boldly Go…

Recently I was talking shop with a couple of fellow woodworkers. One of which was bemoaning the sorry state of his current stable of “used…but not abused” machinery.

He, like me, had scoured the various internet sites looking for older “Merrican” iron and had assembled an impressive collection of mostly Powermatic and Delta “Core” machines. Core machines being a table saw, a jointer and a planer.

The idea here is that an aspiring woodworker can acquire high quality machinery at a fraction of the cost of buying them new. To a large extent this idea is both valid and sound in its actual application.  Where things begin to come off the rails is when something breaks on these machines. More on this in a minute.

This friend of mine did himself, and you dear reader, no great favor by starting me down this particular bunny trail of thought. As you may recall from previous posts, this is exactly the type of mental gymnastics that I adore. Adore to the point of obsession. It’s a sickness, what can I say.

This friend has a very similar space and also is interested in the same type of work that I do/plan to do, so we chatted about what I thought a “dream Shop” should be equipped with if the space limitations were the same, and there was a reasonable budget associated with this Dream Shop.

OH BOY…..HERE WE GO!!!!!

I at first threw out the idea that perhaps duplicating the “used machinery” search and buy method would be best. He nixed this idea because he has recently had several machines require repairs. He quickly discovered several things that were simultaneously heartbreaking and surprising.  First, to our knowledge, the United States no longer manufactures woodworking machines. Not Delta, not Powermatic, none of the traditional U.S. based machinery manufacturers actually cast iron or “make” machines here in the States any more. NONE. ALL of the “go-to” manufacturers source their parts, and to a large degree their labor to off shore vendors.

What they have also done is slowly stop supporting the vintage machinery that is still out there and working in a VERY LARGE percentage of both professional and hobby wood working shops across America. Delta in particular has virtually ceased supporting the old Rockwell/Delta line of equipment. If Powermatic still supports their old iron at all, it is on a limited and very expensive basis. At least that is what I am told.

I should say here that these statements are based pretty heavily on hearsay, and very “light” research on my part and should in no way be taken as “gospel truth”.  I have been wrong before, I may be wrong now, and I am sure to be wrong in future. However, it is pretty widely accepted that all “new” machinery coming from these manufacturers is mostly of Asian DNA.

So, if the playing field is actually much more level than it once was in terms of pedigree and manufacture, if the limitations of space and of budget are the same, the question put to me was “What tools do you choose, and why?”

At first blush I thought the answers would be very simple and that I could just rattle off a bunch of options and that would be that. However, my friend wanted me to take some time and really come up with just what exactly I would choose as my core tooling combination, what manufacturer would I use to provide me those tools, and what was my thought process behind those choices.

That’s a lot of work. I say “work” but really, for whatever reason, it is also one of my favorite things to do as you, dear reader, know already. it would appear my friend does as well….

The modern woodworking shop, either hobby intended or professionally purposed, is normally centered on the task of dimensioning and squaring rough stock.

To this end, one of two machines normally is the centerpiece. Either a band saw or a table saw. Following that, a jointer is needed to create one flat and true face, and one square edge 90* to the fresh face. Finally, a surface planer cleans up the remaining face using the jointed face as a reference. Once those three sides are trued up, it is off to the table saw, or cut off/chop saw for dimensioning the width and length of these boards.

In the next blog entry I will explore the centerpiece of this hypothetical shop, and as that center piece, I choose the table saw.

I will discuss what attributes I would look for, what saws I found that had them, which saw I would choose and why.

After that will be discussions on a jointer, a planer, and several other machines that this hypothetical shop should include.

A little note here, I realize I posted a short series of my own experiences in selecting machines for my own shop at the start of this blog. I actually followed much the same lay out for the series as I propose to do here. The difference(s) are that this series is predicated on a much larger hypothetical budget, and is to focus almost exclusively on new tooling vs. used. So, while initially it may seem like a collection of the same ‘ol, same ol’…it really isn’t as the parameters are much different with the exception of the proposed shop space size and style of working.

Look for the next installment soon.

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Stepping Stones

This morning, as I wait for LOML (Love Of My Life) to finish her design consultation, I am ensconced in a warm and comfortable coffee shop of world renown.

Hot Pike Place coffee next to me, and ailing tablet warmed up finally, I have elected to ponder over what my next steps will be vis-à-vis the new shop and current/future projects.

As it stands, my little garage…or…”little shop of horrors” , is still without power. Additionally, it is also about 3/4’s of the way cleaned out. That last 1/4 is the most important as it is in an area of the shop that will be home to the aircraft carrier I call a work bench.

Key tools sit quietly, waiting for their promised makeovers. The saw needs bearings, a dedicated dust collector/vacuum, power, and to be fully assembled. The Inca jointer planer just needs to get power fed to it, and another dedicated dust collector.

I really need to clean the whole place out and reconfigure the whole shebang. There are a couple of Gorilla Racks that either need to be relocated in the shop, or moved to the basement of the house. They are nice to have, but take up a great deal of space as well. There is a makeshift “workbench” (8-0 door on saw horses) that needs to be broken down and either repurposed, or disposed of. Also, there is a pile of detritus in the very back of the garage, left over from the previous owners, that needs to be sorted and dealt with. This is where the “real” work bench is going to reside.

At some point, when the weather consists more of Colorado sunshine rather than the endless Seattle rain we have been enjoying this spring, I plan to move EVERYTHING out of the shop, and do a real, thorough deep clean. Then I can assess where things will go.

This kind of needs to happen soon. The workbench is making slow, but steady progress. The top is sitting and resting after being laminated and flattened. So far, there have been no appearances of any checking or of the glue joints letting go at all. There IS a slight “cupping” beginning, but I will more than likely re-flatten the top again before final assembly. I attribute this wood movement to a combination of the nature of Douglas Fir and the recent humidity being fairly high.

The trestle pieces have been rough cut to size, tenons cut, and mortises roughed out. I am hopeful that I can have the two leg assemblies put together soon. Then the only things left, will be deciding on either using 4×4’s as the trestle stretchers, or go out and buy a couple of 2×6’s, and building the tool well.  I plan to laminate several 2×4’s edge to edge to give me the needed material for building the box. Once the box is built, it just needs to be bolted to the back of the bench top.

After all that, I will bring it home, and begin finishing it. Watco and wax will be the order of the day. I am planing to need quite a lot of Watco though. The bench top material was VERY dry when I bought it, so there is no doubt in my mind that it will be quite thirsty.

I have rather enjoyed piecing this shop together. From the thrill of the hunt for major machines, to figuring out what efficiencies will best serve my needs. I have given/am giving … much thought to every detail. I feel that I am on track to building a much improved, if much smaller, wood working shop than my first one was. Maturity and experience have proven to be great assets despite my ongoing addiction to tooling.

Lastly, I am spending a good deal of time seeking inspiration for upcoming projects through the shop. I used to have a very definite predisposition to Shaker and Arts and Crafts style furniture. While I still love both of these styles very much, I am itching to explore other design directions. More on this later.

There you have it. I am sure you will sleep much more soundly having read the above rambling. I guess I should just admit that I sometimes need to type out what the “PLAN” is in order to draw it out in my head. This blog has been a great way for me to flesh out various ideas even if the reader doesn’t realize it…

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for good weather. If I can remember to do it, I will shoot a couple of “before” pictures to show the shop space and what I am starting out with….call that a “note to self”.

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A little plug for David .

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I wanted to be sure to post a picture of the winning piece at the Red Rocks Woodworking Show.

This coffee table was built by a classmate of mine, David Costa.

David is a bright new woodworker, and maddeningly talented.

I have to fess up, and disclose that I am “stupid jealous” of his design. Every detail from design,scale, choice of material, and execution was impeccable. Completely spot on and flawless.

Congratulations David. Well done.

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Here we go.

randallnatomagan

I plan to blog my journey from a mindless worker bee to doing what I’ve found myself enjoying which happens to be making things. I’ve recently took an interest in woodworking with hand tools. Originally I wanted to go the power tool route but I found no peace with the noise. I hope one day to quit working and do what I’ve come to love.

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