Hard and expensive lessons learned........

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 02-05-2007 03:31 AM 1342 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am embarrassed now that I have been woodworking for a few years how many tools I have collected. What I really am afraid to admit is how few of this massive collection I really use with any consistently. It seemed for a long time every time something “new” or shiny, improved, or whatever came out, I just had to have it. Some how, I had convinced myself if I just had that tool – it would make me an better woodworker.

Yea right.

I humbly admit most of these new fangled tools I rarely used. Never understood what they should or could do for me. Didn’t work or broke down quickly or never worked right to begin with.

But somehow I had to have them.

It’s mind boggling the money I have spent on these in the past. I don’t think I really want to know. I’m sure I would be surprised and better off if I didn’t know anyways.

For the longest time I couldn’t get myself to sell any of these expensive tools I never used ,underused or could ever really use. It was like I convinced myself some day I would need or use them. Then I would be exonerated for having kept them.

Two things changed this for me.

First and foremost- SPACE, or should I say lack of it. I simply couldn’t store, fit, or hid anymore in my shop.

The second thing was experience. That is the longer I did wood working the more I come to realize that there were some very basic tools I used every day. These tools became my life line and as I began to better understand my craft I realized these were my bread and butter work horses and I needed to by quality and take care of these tools with extra care.

Over time I soon became wise to all the marketing and temptations and just learned to say no.

For me- I have come to believe less is more and have a very basic list of “must have tools”.

All the rest I could get by with out.

This is my list

This is only my power tools not my hand tools with is another whole blog.

A 3 or 5 hp cabinet table saw with very precise fence, and a 7ft top. I won’t name names but I have a favorite I just upgraded to a 5 hp but found the 3 hp to be nearly as good. The biggest difference is noticed when rough ripping and cutting hardwood 8/4 other wise the 3 hp was ample for me.

Two planers, one 13 inch bench top, and one 22 inch floor model.

A sliding miter saw and one 12 inch chop saw. One stationary the other portable.

Drill press bench top. (I admit, I could get by without this but I find it very handy when I need it.)

A dedicated 1-3/4 horse table saw for dados blade only .

A floor model portable dust collector.

Fourteen inch band saw.

My next blog entry I would like to talk about hand power tools and hand tools I can’t live with out.

I’m curious what’s yours?

-- Dusty

10 comments so far

View gizzard's profile


45 posts in 4120 days

#1 posted 02-05-2007 06:16 AM

Since I do rustic style furniture, my power tool needs are not that great. But here’s what I have and I use them all the time:
Rigid 3650 TS
Porter Cable router mounted in a table top
10” Chop saw
14” bandsaw (this I use a lot!)
Flat bed sander table mounted (another one I use a lot!)
Table drill press (love this one too!)
I know you haven’t mentioned hand tools, but there aren’t many, if any, I could do without. Being on a fixed income, I buy what I know I’ll use.
Good question!

-- Dennis, Tennessee

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4368 days

#2 posted 02-05-2007 06:45 AM

A shaper that I bought used that was disasssembled to move and has never been reassembled. Three planers a 20” carbide insert spiral blade, a 12” light weight Delta and a Bellsaw 12” that has a 5 HP motor and can be used to make moldings.. Two 6 X 48” sanders one home made and one Harbor Freight. 2 Bandsaws a 12 Sears and an 18” Import. 2 vacuum pumps for veneering one 110 Volt and I 220 Volt Brandnew that was never installed in a printing plant ($25.00). 2 Drill Presses a table top and a floor model 2 jointers a 6” sears and a 8” Grizlzy with carbide inset spiral blade. 2 table saws a 5 HP Fay Egan with 16” blade. (The sides of the cabinet are 1/2” plate steel and the top is 40 X 44 without wings, Sliding table on left and router surface on right. The other table saw is a Grizzly 10” that I’d like to set up for Dado’s like you have done. 2 Vaccum systems only 1 hooked up.

I’ve told my son-in-law who helped me organize my shop after I moved that all of the duplicates were his when he gets out of his Condo.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4128 days

#3 posted 02-05-2007 01:17 PM

not that this compares, but here’s what I’ve been using so far:
Dremel 1800 scroll saw
Dremel rotory tool (400) based in a Dremel workstation, used as a drill press for the scroll work
Dremel cordless for small sanding areas etc
Dremel rotory tool based in the Dremel router table (my newest and I think I’ll be using this a lot)
Rigid Belt/Spindle sander
Woodburner – for wood burning
Woodburner – for leather burning (this one doesn’t get as hot as the first mentioned)

hopefully I will eventually get to add a router/router table for doing joints on larger boxes… hopefully.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4123 days

#4 posted 02-05-2007 05:54 PM

One of the machines I owned was a floor 3 hp shaper and new panel saw. I was very happy when both of these went down the road. That said let me explain why. One the panel saw was simply a space issue. When I up graded to a cabinate table saw that took care of that need. The shaper I found to be under powered and to be very dangrous and expensive to buy bits for. I found this machine hard to set up compared to useing my router table and routers for my stile’s and rails. In fact for those that I use the same profile over and over l for my doors I just bought routers for the bits and leave the bits in them.


-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4123 days

#5 posted 02-05-2007 06:05 PM


I don’t think its a contest about who has the best or most tools. Just the fact you have tools – like tools- use tools -and do woodworking I find intresting. I like to hear what others have and feel they need for there craft. Some of the most inspireing work I have ever seen has been done with 50 dollars worth of carveing tools. I have been humbled by a man who had little more than a hand saw and a few other hand tools who built a boat, which today he’s sailing iin warm weather- while I work my butt off in sub degree weather. I have decided I’m the fool not him. I spent my money on the tools I have and he’s spending his on bathing suits and sun screen to sail around the world.



Its 26 below wind chill today….......... hmmmmmmmm time for auction I think :)

-- Dusty

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4128 days

#6 posted 02-05-2007 08:40 PM

lol today is definitely one of those days when my brother, now living in Arizona, can look north and laugh at us Canucks freezing our sawdust off.. I think the windchill was -30 or -40 C, yesterday.

you are right, it isn’t a contest, just an honest question. I guess that I don’t feel qualified to respond with any expertise because I’ve only been playing with woodworking for a month. I have no idea which tools will end up just cluttering my space and which tools I will find that I “Need”. But, I’m reading and listening intently to the experienced woodworkers.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4294 days

#7 posted 02-06-2007 03:25 AM

Impressed by the list of what you’ve kept, or the power tools you need…. reading through the list I had a hard time imagining what else you were hanging on to.

A friend from college told me his father-in-law had a workshop to make Norm Abrams jealous. I never asked at the time, but later learned that he was in old home reno, and did use them.

For me, I have plenty of hand tools that don’t see their share of use, either by being mis-laid, hand me downs, or are in need of repair or being deep-sixed.

As for power tools, I do have a new compressor that I’ve never used. I have a nailer that runs on battery or air power. and the battery was dying… just slower that I thought.

I also have a cheap drill press I bought online before I knew better. It’s nothing special, some parts are broken, but It does work, I also have some attachements for my Shopsmith that may or may not get used. 4” jointer attachment, scroll saw. I pretty much use it as a lathe, horizontal drill press and sander. My shop is a far cry from what I want it to be toolwise. but buying slowly over many years, hopefully I’ll avoid some buyers remorse.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4123 days

#8 posted 02-06-2007 04:12 AM

i have to smile and be able to make fun of myself over some of my tool purchases to keep from crying or impailing myself on a pile of scrap wood. I have made one to many of the. I bye “great deal I have to buy this now” off e-bay or where ever only to get it and say…..*&^%$... ..sigh.

Live and learn.

I can say one thing for sure. I really do take my time and carelfuly make good tool choices. I try make good investments that will last long into the future, and serve my needs not just my wants.


-- Dusty

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4144 days

#9 posted 02-06-2007 07:28 AM

Dusty, I certainly relate to this.

For me the problems was I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So I primarily relied on one of the most popular sources of woodworking information for new woodworkers – the woodworking magazine.

I should have realized that these publications serve a vested interest; not their readers so much as their advertisers. I never noticed that when they did a tool review there was often a large full page advertisement of the product being reviewed – doh!

And it seemed that a lot of these marketing campaigns offered just what I was looking for – a quick way to gain the ‘skill’ necessary to do fairly complex work. Probably the best example of this is the dovetail jig. It never dawned on me that cookie-cutter dovetails just don’t quite make it.

In another thread, I alluded to a well know brand of Mortise and Tenon jig that I purchased for around AU$500 a few years back. I wouldn’t even make a good boat anchor. I gave it to a woodworking mate with whom I competed in club competitions. If I couldn’t beat him one way I would do so in another. LOL

Seriously, I bet there are literally tens of thousands of machine in the basement shops of woodworkers that haven’t been switched on for years. Some enterprising you web site designer could start a Tools-for-Cash site and help woodworkers realize some capital from these investments before they become useless from rust – Hey Martin there’s an idea for you.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4123 days

#10 posted 02-06-2007 06:28 PM


Bingo. You are right on with your observations-regarding the woodworking mags. and publications. Been there got suckered in that game way to many times also.

I shutter to think of the money that I havetied up- not to mention countless other woodworkers sitting around invested in unused or underused tools. Like I said before, I finally got by that hurdle of feeliing like a tool was like a marriage commitment- death do us apart.

Not only do I sell them now – I am always looking for what I am not useing or have no likely use for, in the future ,and sell it before it gets lost, mistplaced, or some one borrows it- and never returns it, ( which is another whole blog entry). My new policy on loaning tools out- you can borrow it if you leave the purchase price in cash- otherwise I will be willing to direct you to a near by rental.

This spring when I do my spring cleaning and inventory, I plan on trying something new. That is -I will donate a number of the tools I don’t sell to local charitys or Habitat for Humanity.

Slow learner but making progress,


-- Dusty

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