First Shop #1: What I have and What's Next!

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Blog entry by YooperCasey posted 11-30-2007 05:13 AM 1312 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of First Shop series Part 2: Buy good tools, and know how to sharpen them! »

Hello and welcome to my first Blog!

The intent of this blog is to track my entrance into the world of woodworking. There seems to be a gap between the people who are just getting into woodworking, and those who have been enjoying the hobby for ten years. So, this is my attempt to fill some of that gap. You’ll get to watch me make mistakes, buy some bad tools, and hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes.

First off is my mission statement, the “why am I doing this?”

I need an outlet.

I work as a manufacturing engineer for the largest remanufacturer of engine valves in the world. My job has many exciting details, but I found that I need an outlet for using my hands. I design a great deal of things, write alot of work instructions and such but others do the hands-on. I am much happier if I come home and play in the garage for an hour then if I didn’t.

At this time I have some basic tools and one not so basic tool. I’ll get into this in a paragraph or three. To explain my tool purchasing philosophy I’ll put down a quote…

”It’s unwise to pay too much, but far worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, all you loose is some money – that’s all. When you pay too little, then sometimes you loose everything, because what you buy isn’t able to do what it was bought for. Common business practice makes it impossible to pay a bit and to get alot – quite simply, it can’t be done. If you accept the lowest offer, then you would be wise to insure yourself against the risk you run – and if you do that, then you can afford to pay for the better product anyway.”
John Ruskin

So here I am with more ambition then I have cash. I must walk a line of compromises. I have a sizable set of student loans, house payment and such to pay off but at the same time I will try and get the best tools for my situation.

What do I mean by that? While I would love a complete Festool set, it is beyond my budget and for the most part beyond what I need. For now. Ten years from now the odds say that I will accumulate a few. But while getting started without even a full set of drill bits to my name is tough, trying to get it all at once is impossible.

But, here’s my tools.

Hand tools first.

Hand Tools

Here’s a close-up.


Here we see my new mallet! Also some layout tools, hand brace, my horrible plane, forstner bit (Freud) and Marbles Knife. Also a pullsaw, I definitely want a better one of these, it works excellent. The plane is a big box purchase, and out of the box it is horrible. After a few hours with a mill, surface grinder and stones it does a decent job. A full plane set is in my future. Not Veritas or Lie Nielsen, so maybe bargain shopping? But the Buck Bros or Menards equivalent is crap.

Another close-up.

Even More of a close-up

I included my router bits here just because, well, I don’t have many. More marking tools here, files, clamps, and chisels. The chisels interestingly enough are the cheapest chisels I could buy at Menards (think Home Depot but cheaper and lower quality). We needed a set to beat on at work, so we purchased those for I think 6 dollars. After we beat them for a bit we noticed that the steel was actually not bad, just not heat treated. So we went and put a heat treat on the tips and lo-and-behold they came out at exactly 64 Rc. A bit hard, but workable. They warped, bad, but a bit on the surface grinder took care of that. I have a Veritas sharpening jig (MKII) coming soon and nicer chisels are also in the works. The router bits come from Woodcraft, the starter set and I just got them yesterday. They look really nice, and the very limited cutting I’ve done so far has turned out nice.

Now for the power tools…

Power Tools

Please, refrain from laughter. You have to start somewhere and if the difference is buy B&D or buying nothing at all… well, you have to have a drill! The sander, upon first inspection seemed neat. It has a removable pad and can random orbital sand and detail sand. The dust collection unit is horrible and I will get a nice sander one of these days. The drill spins, not much more I can say about it. The jig saw was on sale for $25, so I picked it up. It cuts, slightly off center and crooked, but it’s a cut!

The router though… my first real power tool. I have done about 4 linear feet of routing with it, but man it is nice. Everything is exactly where you’d think it would be, and I hardly know anything about routers! One of my planned tool upgrades is either purchasing a table or making my own for this beautiful work of engineered art.

My goal is to eventually have all my tools on par with that Triton router.

My other neato goodie…

Triton Woodrack

My woodrack! Currently filled with hard maple. It went together simple and quick, very pleased with it. I checked out Tritons Australian website and alot of the products they show look extremely clever and well done. If the quality is on the same level as the router they will become the gap bridger between Dewalt and Festool.

Last picture, a workbench, with a warning below.


My first workbench, and definitely my last of this type. It can’t clamp well, anything you cut, sand or rout on it is amplified by 30 Db do the lack of rigidity and it likes to slide. But for now it will clamp lightly, and hold things as long as it is light duty.

I was asked by Dadoo what my next project is, and it will be a maple workbench. At this point in the game it is the second most critical upgrade I need to make. The first being a table saw.

Right now it is looking like the Ridgid contractor saw with the cast iron top. My uncle has one and he speaks highly of it and I speak highly of him, so A = A. But I am also looking for a good used saw also, with my limited funds if I can get the same level of saw (basic, upgradeable with better fence and miter gauge) then I will be extremely happy. But good old table saws seem to be scarce, at least for a price that its worth assuming the risk of a used piece of equipment. But I’m looking!

So if you are near the UP of michigan, and have a nice saw you’d be willing to sell, heck, any tools for that matter, please let me know! I’ll keep you folks up to date on my upgrades and plans. A few future plans are my $100 assembly bench, maple workbench, 3 under-table cabinets (one of which will be sound deadened) and an outfeed table. As far as finished goods, a bookshelf, night stand and Wood Whisperer Cutting board.

So here we go folks, time to turn my 12 foot by 20 foot garage into a Woodshop!

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

11 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4423 days

#1 posted 11-30-2007 05:20 AM

Is the wood rack shelves or wood storage.. Great start on tools. Been there done that. I got lucky 25 years i made toys that I sold at craft fairs and I used the money to buy tools. So I didn’t take any household money to fuel my passion.

Good luck on your travels.

-- 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 YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3856 days

#2 posted 11-30-2007 05:23 AM

Wood storage on that shelf. Everything is laid out to help it defrost. The wood was covered with snow and ice when I brought it in so I wanted to dry it evenly. I’ve thought of trying to sell some wares in time, but for right now I don’t think I could sell a toothpick to an olive.

Also I really have to thank everyone for the warm welcome here, it is rare to see such courtesy on the internet and the reason I’m here. Thanks folks, it makes a newbie feel warm and welcome in the fraternity.

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3918 days

#3 posted 11-30-2007 05:45 AM

Casey – I think you’ve got a dandy start. You should check out Blake’s blog on used tools – It’s a good read and has some good suggestions. Also check out e-bay – you can get some good deals there as well.

No shame whatsoever on your start on tools. A lot of great wood has been worked with fewer tools than in your arsenal. I look forward to more of your posts.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Bravesfan's profile


5 posts in 3866 days

#4 posted 11-30-2007 06:00 AM

Welcome. I’m a newbie here myself with only a little more experience then yourself. I wanted to give you my thoughts on the Ridgid contractor saw as I bought on a month ago to upgrade from my $99 Delta. The Ridgid was dead on out of the box. Blade parallel to the miter slots, square to the table, and the fence parallel to the blade as well. I was a little upset this past weekend as it was on sale Black Friday weekend for $299. Oh well, wish I’d seen that one coming. Anyway, the saw is perfect for my needs, accurate, reasonably priced and portable on my screened in back porch (aka “The Shop”).

-- Mike and his helper "Stoli"

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4113 days

#5 posted 11-30-2007 06:35 AM

Five years ago I had a hammer, a prybar, and hand me downs of a black and decker circ saw, drill (corded), and jigsaw.

It is a slippery slope.

Best investment: If you can take a class.

Welcome to Lumberjocks.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4122 days

#6 posted 11-30-2007 07:17 AM

I started 10 years ago with 4 tools from Kmart. A 16 oz. hammer, flat tip and phillips screw drivers, and adjustable pliers. Maaaan, look at me now!

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3897 days

#7 posted 11-30-2007 11:14 AM

It was only about three years ago when I didn’t even know what a jointer or planer was, had never used a router table, and had never built anything without screws in it. It is amazing how quickly you can learn if your are passionate about something.

By the way, I am also a student with loans to pay, etc. I was going to refer to my blog on used tools but Betsy beat me to it. Thanks Betsy! You can build up a great shop fairly thriftily if you are creative.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3962 days

#8 posted 11-30-2007 01:32 PM

Casey, get what you can when you can. I think half the fun of this activity is the creativity that comes from doing with what you’ve got. In time you’ll accumulate more and better tools, but for now, enjoy the innovation of the minimalist.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

405 posts in 3855 days

#9 posted 11-30-2007 02:16 PM

Casey- Thanks for sharing. I think we’ve all been there. I used to be a technical director (as well as the only carpenter) for a very small non-profit theater company—and I think back then I’d have envied your current tool collection! You gotta start somewhere! The fact that you’re good with a grinder and have a sense of quality tools will serve you well.

As for tools…have you considered Craig's List? I’ve bought and sold a number of tools there and have been extremely happy with the results. There are a couple widgets for iGoogle that I keep on my google homepage monitoring the list for specific tools I’m looking for. You just have to be prepared to wait it out for some types of tools, and pounce on deals when they come up. I”ve typically priced my stuff to sell within a day—and they always have. The other day I picked up an old 2100CFM dust collector for $200 and a 70”x30” workbench (1-1/2” maple top, metal legs) for $125. The workbench will eventually be reworked, but for the price it gets me through and saves me tons of time.

I regularly see table saw deals in the Chicago area list…and in fact sold my old Delta contractor saw there.

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

View YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3856 days

#10 posted 11-30-2007 02:46 PM

Thanks for all the great comments folks.

I actively watch the used tool market in my area, nothing worthwhile yet. I like your article too Blake, though sometimes I can be leary of used tools, but thats mostly becuase where I work we retrofit and rebuild all of our own machines from used, so I see a one year rebuild process in any used power tool. (Just kidding on that one!)

I also keep an eye peeled on craigslist and run an ad as well for tools wanted, no luck there either… yet. I’ve seen a few good deals but they’ve always been outside of my driving distance, it’s a shame it takes me 6 hours or more to get to Chicago, like ya said, good deals there!

Thanks again for the comments folks!

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3980 days

#11 posted 11-30-2007 03:06 PM

Good start Casey, welcome to the tool addicts club! It never ends..I find myself eyeing tools I really don’t need that bad and definatley don’t have the room for..but it’s fun!


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