I was going to call this “Worst. Workshop. Ever.” but decided that wasn’t being fair because I have to admit that it is a decent little space for puttering around or hiding from the family, even if it is worthless for getting a project done. And I am a bit of a tool snob. But still….
I’m talking about the little space my Dad carved out of the garage. He took the 1-car part of a 3-car garage and paid $1100 to have a wall put in and some electrical lines run. When I first saw it I was appalled at what I saw, but I think I understand now that it wasn’t really built with the intent of doing woodworking, it’s just that at this stage of his life people expect him to have a hobby like woodworking, and I’m into woodworking, so he had to make a little effort. He built this shop and made a list of the tools he needed to stock it with and then went out to see if he could, using garage sales and harbor freight, stock that workshop for under $100 bucks. I think he probably came close.
Dad’s workbench is not usable for woodworking. It sits up a bit high and is covered with stuff – odds and ends, nuts and bolts, a small drill press and a “miter box” (I use ”” when I’m being sarcastic, like when you say your boss is “special” and you make those little quotes with your fingers.) There is room for putting a cup of coffee down if you are very careful. But it’s a good bench for non-woodworking stuff. He bought it at HF and it’s got big steel frame under a thick wooden top. Something like this:
The only tools on the bench are this drill press:
This DP was my first clue that dad wasn’t really into woodworking (actually the total lack of completed projects was the first clue, but I digress.) When I first saw this drill it wouldn’t drill a straight hole 1” deep. Every single nut/bolt that could be loose, was loose. I tightened up what I could but the chuck still has so much runout you can see the end of the drill bit wobble. Not that you’d want to use any of his drill bits. His bit storage consists of a wooden bin in a drawer in the toolbox with “small” bits in one bin, “medium” in another, and “large” bits in a third. I tried half a dozen bits and every single one was too dull to put a hole in balsa wood. Which was a shock because on a shelf above the bench was this:
HF sells this sharpener for $40+. I know my Dad, and he wouldn’t spend $40 for something smaller than a softball so he must have grabbed it at a garage sale. It’s made to sharpen drill bits, and chisels. I tried it on a chisel but as soon as I touched the metal to the stone it stopped turning, and the plastic is just slightly thicker than saran wrap so there wasn’t any consistency. Then again, now I can see why his drill bits were so dull.
Now somehow my Dad actually ended up with a nice little 14” bandsaw. His is a PC, but it’s the same style as every other 14” bandsaw made in the last 10 years.
It should be able to do all sorts of nifty tricks.
It can’t. He mentioned last time he visited me that he’d cut his hand trying to shove something through the bandsaw. So I ran my finger over the blade and it is no exaggeration to say that it was so dull it wouldn’t cut styrofoam. I actually had to look closer to make sure he hadn’t put it on backwards. He had three blades hanging on the wall and two were just as dull. All I can figure is that someone threw them in a dumpster and he just happened to walk by and grabbed them. I told him about Highland Hardware in Atlanta but since he might never actually use it again I didn’t order him any of their blades.
When he visited me he also mentioned that he wanted to make some inserts for his tablesaw. Of course this tricked me into believing that he actually had a real tablesaw! So imagine my surprise when I ran into this stamped piece of tinfoil sitting in the middle of the room:
It’s got a neat little universal motor so when your neighbor pisses you off you can crank it up and drive him out of the house. Other than that, it’s a waste of electricity. The “insert” is a piece of thin metal, no way to make a zero-clearance one out of wood. The fence rattled even when tightened down, and there is no guard to protect you when, not if, it eventually disintegrates into a million shards of plastic and tin while making a cut. I made him a quick little crosscut sled for small things so they wouldn’t fall in the 1” gap next to the blade, but when I tried it out I saw that my “square” cuts were about 85 degrees, not 90. Turns out he’s had it that way forever. I tried to adjust to 90, but it wouldn’t go. It’s basically a circular saw mounted under a sheet of thin metal and when I tried to go to 90 it banged against the bottom of the table. I was able to push real hard and get it to about 88 degrees but if I’d gone any farther I would have pushed a bow into the table itself. He also had a nice assortement of dull 1960’s non-carbide blades in a variety of sizes too small, just right, and too large to fit the saw, all hanging proudly on the wall. Skil – you should be ashamed of yourself for putting such trash out there for unsuspecting people like my Dad. Oh, you see that little bit of blue in the bottom right of the pic? That is the world’s cheapest extension cord. I think it’s from a Thomas the Train toy set. If the house burns down, that should be the first place the investigators look.
And so it went with every single tool, big or small. I think now there are four grades of tools:
1. Professional cabinetmaker tools. Big, strong, silent and accurate. You throw a board in one end and a perfect project comes out the other.
2. Contractor Tools – a bit more portable, but with power. Slight loss of accuracy but you can get-er-done even working out of a trailer on the jobsite.
3. Home-maker, hobbyist machines. They look good in the store and with the proper color scheme they can impress the neghbor. But you’ll be doing a lot of fiddling/tweaking to get any real work done.
4. (About 27 notches below #3). The cr@p my Dad bought. These are tools we donated to 3rd world countries, and they saved up all their pennies to send it right back to us.
Remember that “miter” box I mentioned above? Well there wasn’t (thankfully) any saw to go with it but it looked like this:
And the last thing was so bad, I couldn’t even take a picture of it. (it’s hiding in another pic above, look closely behind the DP.) I needed a level to hang some quilt racks. He pulled out this piece of metal 12” long that weighed about 1/100th of an ounce. It’s what he had so I gave it a go. I leveled a 20” cleat with the level, then looked at it and the ceiling and noticed that it was off by a good 1” on one end. So I flipped the level around and tried again. Now the bubble was crammed so far to one side it was trying to get out of the vial. Fipped around, now it says level. ??? So I step down off the ladder and take a closer look at this “level.” It was a piece of lightweight metal, it was twisted, and the three yellow plastic vials were held on by two rivets each. And all six rivets were loose! But wait, it gets better. I showed him how bad this level was and how it belonged in a trash can. The next morning I went out to the Worst. (Woodworking) Workshop. Ever. And there it was, that little dollar-store level, sitting proudly on the pegboard above the bench.
I’m going back next year around spring/early summer. If I can find a decent tablesaw that will fit the allotted 12” x 18” that he’s got for one, I’ll try and pick one up. I thought about that Ridgid 4512 some of you seem to like so much but I hate to pour so much money into something he might only use two times a year, and it looked like the rails would be too long for the space he’s got.