The right saw blade can make a cheap tool work great; the wrong saw blade can make a great tool run poorly.
This was illustrated to me when I was setting up my new table saw (more about it in next week’s post). I thought, “I’ll use the stock blade that comes with the saw. It’ll be fine for awhile.” Nope. My new saw, that I had done tons of research on, saved up money for, and finally purchased, cut like crap. There was a lot of vibration, chatter, and the cut was very rough. Luckily, I also had a brand new blade of my preferred brand. Once I dropped it in, the saw ran quieter, had less vibration, and my cuts were superior. All from a single high quality saw blade.
This is part of the New Tool Tuesday series. On Tuesdays, I post an article reviewing the tools I use on the jobsite.
The Kreg Pocket Hole jig is owned by almost every woodworker I know, and every woodworker should have one. But Kreg also makes a lot of other useful tools and jigs. Over time, I have found that I really like most of their tools. Their prices are very reasonable as well. These are tools I actually own and use professionally on most of my work.
Since going into business for myself in November of 2015 I have been working out of my truck. I did as much as possible to organize my toolbox, and have efficient space saving tools (such as my Multi-purpose slab). I did the best I could with just a truck, but it seemed like everyday I would have to make multiple trips to and from my shop.
Sometimes it took two trips to simply get the tools I needed to the jobsite. The rest of the time were the inevitable trips back home to get the one tool forgotten. In the trades time is money; the faster and more efficient you can be the more money you can make. Speed and efficiency also benefit the customer. Being highly organized means the job is completed faster, and a contractor can charge a lower price because he makes up the difference in time saved for more jobs. Furthermore, I was limited in that I was “stuck” only bidding jobs within my small town.
I knew I wanted an enclosed cargo trailer. I’ve known I wanted a trailer since before self-employment was thrust upon me (A true blessing in disguise). My modular shop cabinets, which I build over a year ago, were built in anticipation that I would eventually go into business for myself and have a cargo trailer workshop. I’m determined never to go in debt for my business, and I am proud to say I found the exact trailer I wanted and was able to pay cash for it. Dave Ramsey would be proud.
The trailer I wanted and I bought is a 12ft long by 6ft wide cargo trailer with a V-nose, tandem axles, and a ramp door. My trailer is a 2014 Cargo Mate. I found it used on Craigslist for a fair price and the previous owner took very good care of it. I hadn’t heard of Cargo Mate before this, but the build quality seems higher than many of the other trailers I looked at.
I detail the reasons why I wanted a trailer spec’d this way in the YouTube video below. 6ft by 12ft seemed to me to be big enough to actually be able to work out of, yet small enough to pull with my F-150. I have the smaller 4.6 V8 in my truck so it cant pull as much as my Expedition with the larger 5.4 V8. The 5.4 doesn’t care that there is a trailer behind it, but the 4.6 definitely notices. The V-Nose is primarily for aerodynamics but gives additional storage options. My Father, Father-in-law, and an uncle all recommended that I only consider getting a trailer with tandem axles. Their reasons were as follows: Safer (four wheels vs two in a blow out), Pulls better (tracks better, rides over bumps smoother), Easier to load (It’s not a teeter-totter), and carries twice the weight. The weight of the loaded trailer is going to be whatever it needs to be. Having tandem axles means I can load out the trailer how I need/want to and still be far under the maximum payload. Based on my estimates I am going to be slightly over the limit of a single axle, leaving plenty of payload for materials. The ramp door is a convenience and a back saver. I can easily roll my tools up the ramp instead of lifting 70+ pound tools several times a day. I’m glad I listened to the advice of others and got this option.
Turning this trailer into my rolling workshop is a lot of work, planning, and thinking through how I want to work in the future. It’s also a lot of fun! I’m enjoying the design, trail and error of making this trailer uniquely mine. I am certainly taking inspiration from other contractors, most notably Ron Paulk’s Awesome Rolling Tool Box.
My rolling workshop is continuously evolving. Since I’ve never worked out of a cargo trailer before, I couldn’t simply build it out from the beginning. Here’s a Mark Twain quote “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” My trailer build happens in spurts. I work out of the trailer and fix what doesn’t work for me. Below are Trailer Builds 1.2 and 1.3
Trailer build 1.4 should be along shortly. I’m doing my best to document every improvement as I go.
On my truck I have a standard cross-box style tool box. It’s your basic aluminum box that I got at Tractor Supply Company for around $300. It carries my roadside stuff, basic hand tools, ratchet straps, etc. Since it’s just one big open box, nothing is ever organized…until now.
I started with some plywood trays. Most truck boxes have a lip about half way up where you can add a tray. The plastic trays at Tractor Supply are about $40.00… um not gonna happen. I used 1/2in plywood that I had on hand and made two simple trays; one with a middle divider, one without. They were made with glue and brad nails, super quick. If you make trays be sure to allow clearance for the tool box latches. I had to notch out a place for the latches so I have to make sure the trays are positioned correctly when closing the lid.
Below the shelf that the trays sit on I made an awesome divider system. I took two pieces of 1/2 inch plywood cut dados in them every 3 inches. Once that was done I glued them to the inside of the tool box with some Liquid nails. My dividers are made from 1/8 inch hardboard.
This is the best thing I’ve ever done for my truck. It seems like I can hold twice as much AND I can find it! Watch the Video Below
Now that I’m a full-time carpenter/small business owner I work primarily out of my truck. How you work, how organize your tools, and how you plan projects drastically changes when you go from a nice well thought out and organized shop to an F150. The biggest loss in this transition is a sturdy workbench. This is where the Multi-Purpose Slab comes in.
A Multi-Function Slab is a poor man’s version of the Festool MFT (or Festool Multi-Function Table). I made mine from a 3/4 Sheet of MDF and paired it with Dewalt/Stanley Metal Adjustable Height Saw Horses (these are great sawhorses). This combination takes up minimal real estate in the 5.5ft bed of my truck. I would love to take my Paulk Total Station to the jobsites, but it doesn’t fit in the bed of my truck. That’s the advantage of the Multi-function slab: it’s compact and lightweight enough to maneuver into small working locations. The Paulk workbenches don’t share that advantage.
Isn’t this “Multi-Function Slab” just a glorified plywood and sawhorse combo? Yes, yes it is. The advantage is that the Plywood/MDF is planned out and layed out to make work go smoother. That’s why you keep this instead of the typical use of scrap on sawhorses for a make shift work bench. What makes it better is that you think out how you’re going to use a work bench and put in clamp locations and dog holes so that it becomes a valuable tool.
I modified Steve Olson’s original design to work with inexpensive Bessey F clamp rather than the expensive Festool clamps. To do so I drilled a grid of 1 1/4 inch holes on 6 inch centers. I then had to create a rabbit on the underside for the clamps to pop into place. My Paulk Workbench is made from 1/2″ ply and I didn’t have a problem with the clamps on it, the thicker slab left more material to bind on. The various handles and clamp slots I made with a can of wipe on poly. The rectangular shape makes nice looking cutouts.
[A note about Festool: Just because I’m making a knock-off doesn’t mean that I think Festool tools are overpriced and not as good as the “fan-boys” claim nor do I think a professional needs the “top-of-the-line” tools to do quality work. If/when I can justify the cost of such premium tools then I may or may not invest in top-shelf equipment such as Festool.]
Cost wise the Festool MFT 3 is $665 from Amazon. Would I buy one? Maybe if I ever decide to invest in the Festool ecosystem. Now let’s add up the cost of making your own MFSlab.
$30 – 4ft x 8ft x 3/4in MDF sheet. Cut to 3ft x 5ft and a second 4ft rip is left to act as a shelf
$80 for a pair of good adjustable height saw horses. I can say enough good things about these Stanley/Dewalt Horses. They are very good.
That comes out to be $158 which is $507 less than the Festool MFT. Even if you factor in what your time is worth it’s still drastically cheaper. I painted mine to protect it. I try to bring it into the shop overnight so it doesn’t get rained on but if and when I need to replace it, it’s inexpensive to do and only took about an hour to make.
If you’re a carpenter of have extremely limited space this is a great tool to consider adding to your arsenal. If I was woodworking back in my college days this makes a great workbench store in an apartment or even under a bed.
On Pinterest I frequently see pins about using coconut oil for restoring antique wood furniture. Coconut oil is esteemed to be the all natural, non-toxic, and better way to rejuvenate old dry wood. Is it just hype? Or does Coconut oil really work for a wood finish? And would coconut oil work to restore old hickory handles on tools such as shovels, rakes, hoes, axes, and hammers?
Sanding is no one’s favorite task, but every woodworker knows that it is the most important step in getting a perfect finish. I’ve come up with a simple and I think clever solution to make sure I sand enough but not any longer than necessary.
I thought I’d do an update on where I’m at on remaking my shop into a completely modular system. The featured image is the latest concept of what my final design will be. I’ve gone through several designs.