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.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve never had a serious accident related to woodworking. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been careful. I take my safety seriously, I owe a large part of this mindset to the years I spent doing competition shooting sports. Many of the rules of gun safety transfer to woodworking.
It’s not news to anyone that the table saw is the most dangerous tool in the shop. Ok, second most, you are the most dangerous tool in the shop. Our tools are only as dangerous as we are.
Soap box aside the table saw is dangerous and causes many accidents, all are caused through negligence just as all firearm accidents are caused by negligence. When you remove all the safety devices from your equipment because it “slows you down” you’re asking for trouble. I think the very fact that these safety devices slow us down is why they work.
I plan on buying a nice Sawstop table saw one day because it will stop the blade if you touch it. But that doesn’t remedy carelessness or using proper techniques.
Other than cutting your fingers off, kickback can break your face.
I’m all for those of you who make your own jigs, clamps, tools, etc. I’m always impressed to see how you made a tool for yourself that makes your work easier and more enjoyable. In fact, I just bought a couple of 2x4s in order to make a set of clamps.
That being said, sometimes it’s just easier to just buy it. I’ve attempted several times to make a usefull feather board for my table saw. All without much success. The other day I was in the store and saw a featherboard that fits in both 5/8 and 3/4 inch miter tracks.
I figured for the price (less than $20) it was worth it. With the time I spend trying to make one that works right, I would have well over an hour into it and if I count labor, it is much cheaper to just buy. Also, is safety equipment something we should really skimp on?
I’m still going to make jigs and tools, I do enjoy the challenge, but for somethings like a cheap feather board it’s just not worth the hassle.
What are jigs you feel are worth buying instead of making, and vice versa?
Every Woodworker goes through the phase of purchasing tools from Harbor Freight (HF). All of our woodworking magazines come with coupons with prices ridiculously low. So low most of us warrant its worth the shot for that new _____ we’ve been saving up for. Instead of paying $500 we can pay $200 with our handy dandy coupon. We then realize the truth as our $2.00 Clamps break during a crucial glue up, or our $12 electric drill is impossible to control and starts smoking (yeah, true story). Then we get over it and head back to Lowe’s.
Now to be fair, there are a few gems at HB. I did construction work during summers in High School and drove a lot of nails, Estwig hammers are great but my premium hammer was lost over the years. I’ll be honest I love my $5.00 Hammer from HF, it is wonderful. Sure I don’t use it everyday, like before, but I still enjoy using it. Likewise, their tape measures aren’t as good as your metal bodied Stanley but when you can get them for free with a coupon, you can put one everywhere. My church has a little 3 gallon “hotdog” air compressor that we use for lots of things (for $40 I might get one for the house), but we’ve also got a 20 gallon HF aircomp that is ‘piss-poor’ compared to my Craftsman 10 gallon.
This brings me to the main point; the HF blade I’ve been using for the last year in my Craftsman 10″ table saw. I got this saw as the closeout of the display model, so I paid $100 for a $300 saw. It didn’t come with a blade so I bought a general purpose Dewalt blade. After about a year of use (mostly weekends for a few hours) the blade needed replacing. I didn’t have a lot of descretionary income for the woodshop but I had a 20% off coupon the good ol’ Harbor Freight.
I bought a 40 Tooth Combination Blade for $12.99. It has been a good blade and is still going strong. I do a lot of salvaged lumber work, and even cut down some mesquite logs with a jig. For the price I could have bought 3 blades for one Freud Blade. If all I did was construction I’d just have a stack in my truck and put a new one in whenever one got dull.
Will my new saw blade that cost 5 times of the HF blade be 5 times better? I’m not sure about that. The value probably wont be noticeable at first but I imagine better cuts, especially with heavier stock and with crosscuts on veneered plywood. I also hope it lasts much longer.
I plan on soaking the HF blade with a dawn/vinegar solution to clean off all the pitch and resin. Then keep it. It will be an extra for when I send off the new blade to get sharpened, or if I’m doing some pallet project where I’m not sure if a stray nail may be present.
Other than this, I’m over my HF phase, sure I get lucky every once in a while, but I’ve now come to the point in my woodworking where I’d rather buy quality once, then something cheap twice. That’s not always getting the absolute best on the market, I wish I had a shop full of Powermatic, Grizzly, or Festool. Rather it’s doing my research and buying the best quality that I can reasonably afford.
Today it is a tenon jig for my table saw. I’m making ‘turnstiles’ for my Church’s upcoming VBS. The theme is ‘Colossal Coaster World’ so we need to make our church look like an amusement park. The turnstiles will be at the main entrance so the kids will pass through the gate into the park. It should be fun.
In order to make them I needed to cut a 15degree angle into the end of a 2×6. So a simple tenoning jig was needed. I’m now trying to make jigs as I need them for a task. It seems better to do it that way.
A special thanks to the folks at Wood Choppin Time for the free plans I used to make the jig. They also posted a video on how to use it. I can see how it could also be used for half-lap joints which I want to give a try.
I know, I know… The internet is full of posts and videos on how to build this jig. It took a little over an hour to make, and now I can get around to the picture frames I promised my wife about six months ago.
I’m starting to work on my Youtube channel that will focus on woodworking projects. I’ll be making things for my shop, for my house, for my wife, and things to sell. Check it out. My goal is one video a month, and maybe two a month.