The best part about blogging, as a beginner at woodworking, is that one learns much more than they would, were they doing the woodworking alone. Yesterday’s blog had some great reactions, and posed a great question, is it worth it?
Is it worth the extra dollars for the expensive equipment? An experienced woodworker, who has tried a full gamut of tools, could give a solid argument for or against. I am not such a woodworker. With every purchase, the pros and cons must be weighed.
There is an old adage; you get what you pay for. There is another one which goes, buy the best tool you can afford. Of course, old Ben Franklin used to say, and probably would still, were his voice not impeded by a nasty case of death, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’ Historically, I have been a terrible impulse shopper, not at all taking Ben’s advice. This has not been the case with woodworking however. (He said, knowing full and well, he ran amok with impulse purchases just yesterday, and wrote a considerable blog piece about that very fact.) It is the first time in my life where I have mulled over purchases for weeks or months, before making a decision. I spent a least a month deciding on the Bosch router. I took a week just to pick out a new set of drill bits. The decision to build or buy a router table started in November.
It isn’t because of a new found restraint. It is more a case of fascination with all that is out there, and the research is definitely educational. I actually find the process enjoyable. Maybe it is that way with other things too, I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t ever tried it before. So this brings me back to the current items, which are trying their best to make it to the top of my list. I am considering the Festool RO Sander, a collection of nice chisels is something I would like, my first hand plane might be the Veritas block plane, a drill press or DJ1 drilling jig, a planer, SawStop table saw, and nice moisture meter.
There are lots of other wonderful items, like a band saw, lather, and some nice spray equipment for finishing furniture, but they aren’t high enough on the list to mention. Oh wait, I just mentioned them. Oh well, I am on a roll.
So I continue to do research. Which brings me back to the discussion about the Festool sander we had today, and I don’t know that I am able to give an answer one way or the other. I do know that I was very impressed with how the wood glowed after I used the 6” sander. So I wanted to check it out again. Today
I went prepared to do my own, very unscientific test. I took in a piece of rough cut walnut, cut to 33”. I have lots and lots of this walnut, so this test will be more meaningful to me, than working on scrap pieces that Matt had with him. Because there wasn’t a lot of time, I decided to a comparison based upon how much progress I could make in 15 minutes. Of course, I lost track of time, and ended up going 16 minutes.
This is how my test will go. I have spent 16 minutes sanding with the items that come in the 6” kit, on one side of the rough wood. I will now use my existing equipment, a belt sander and mouse sander, and see what I can accomplish in 16 minutes. I want to know how much difference there is between my current, albeit meager set up, and the Festool. It is not apples to bananas, by any means, and I am aware of that.
So today I have included a picture of the wood, in rough cut form, as a bit of a teaser for tomorrow’s blog.
Now will this answer the question, “Is the extra money worth it, for the Festool, versus another company’s less expensive option?” No, as I said, it isn’t scientific. It will answer the question, how much improvement will I get for my dollars.
I should mention that there was a customer with Matt the Festool guy, when I arrived. He had a finishing sander with him, which he had bought about a year ago. He didn’t feel like it did the job he wanted, not by a long shot. The customer builds furniture and cabinets and had used several other, very nice quality finishing sanders, before buying the Festool a year ago. He was very polite and explained that he honestly didn’t know if it was his sander, or operator error. Matt got out the piece of tiger wood that I had sanded on one side the day before. The customer looked at it and said he remembered seeing a piece of wood at the demo last year, and he truly didn’t believe that there wasn’t a finish on the wood. I told him that I had done the sanding yesterday.
Matt turned the wood over and made a couple of passes with the customer’s sander, using the 220 grit paper that was on it. He sanded for only a very short while, and then stopped. All three of us felt the wood. It felt just like I expected, as I had done the same thing the day before. The customer thought it felt really good too.
Around the table he walked, and grabbed a piece of scrap lumber and tried it himself. Sure enough, his sander worked just fine. But the customer still seemed confused. So they got the exact sander, which the customer had used, prior to buying the Festool. They fired it up and it was much noisier. After using both of them, side by side, the customer realized that his sander was working so much quicker, quieter, and the dust collection was so complete, that he was being fooled into thinking it wasn’t working. The last tip that Matt gave him, was to dial down the vacuum, which when on high, sometimes creates too much suction. The middle of the road suction worked better for his model of sander. In the end, he loved his tool, and left feeling much better about his purchase.
So I am going to do my test, which will help me decide if I want to move it up the list. I may not learn anything that is helpful to anyone else, but what I will have done is recorded what I was thinking about and my reasoning for making the decision. This may one day, down the road, be incredibly valuable to me. I hope it will be interesting to all of you.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com