Shop & Tool Growing Pains #3: Lumberjocks, Sawhorses, and Power Tool Value Trap

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Blog entry by pendledad posted 10-23-2012 06:19 PM 6364 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Shop Bench & Storage Part 3 of Shop & Tool Growing Pains series Part 4: 1.21 GigaWatts! »

So with my shop taking shape, my tools off the ground, I turned to the web for advice on the first project. Everything I read suggested something like a workbench or sawhorses would make a great first project because it teaches a lot of valuable lessons for beginners and adds value to your shop. This was also where I discovered LJ. What an awesome site. A real social networking site for people across the globe to share their advice and projects. Unlike FaceBook or Twttter where you turn into a screen zombie, I’ve found this site extremely useful for learning and gathering inspirational ideas.

I had been following Mafe’s his blog on Japanese tools (which was why I purchased the two pull saws from Rockler). A few more searches and I found the project to combine a shop addition and some Japanese tools and some skill building.

My Japanese Sawhorses

After this project I quickly realized that I didn’t have the luxury of time. Between the kids, my job, and the million other things going on, I needed the ability to get projects done quickly. I really enjoyed working with 100% hand tools, but rather than ripping a 2×6 by hand, I would have rather used a table saw or band saw to finish that step and move on with the project. With TS and BS envy on my mind, I quickly turned to CL to see what was out there.

JACKPOT! I found a vintage cast iron craftsman TS and BS for $20. Yes, $20 for both saws. They shared a motor which was on a quick release system so you can bring it to either stand. A 30 minute drive and a long conversation with the original owner of these tools, I brought these babies home:

A new blade, and a little TLC, these things were running like new. Very little vibration and seemed like an “oldie but goodie”. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too far with these tools before running into some issues. During the final stages of the Radiator Covers, I needed to build some french cleats. I bumped my table saw to 45 degrees and fired it up … WHAM! The belt flung off and shot across the room. I put the belt back on and nudged the motor a bit to get it in better alignment and tried again. WHAM! Flung off again. Finally I got it to run with some perfect alignment. The issue with these old saws is that the motor moves freely off the back of the saw as the arbor tilts. You can kind of see the motor mount in this shot:

So the arbor pulley is tilted and the motor pulley isn’t. So naturally the belt wanted to come off. Anyways, I got the saw the run, and I tried to rip the french cleat out of a 1×6 or 1×8 (can’t remember) piece of scrap. As I started to get about 1/2 through the cut, I noticed the wood started to vibrate and felt strange … so I killed the saw. I am dang lucky I rewired the saw with a new delta saw safety switch. The original motor has a switch on the motor itself and I would have been in serious trouble if that was still the case. The wood was actually drifting away from the fence a bit because the fence had come out of alignment with the blade. You can see the safety switch I installed, which definitely saved me from a kickback:

So with the TS officially scaring me half to death at this point, I decided to go fire up one of my 2 band saws. Remember I have the 10” craftsman from the estate sales, and the 12” vintage one from the CL deal. So I went to the 10” saw first because it was setup on my table. I went to tilt the table to 45 degrees and SNAP! The lower blade guide assembly cracked in half. Cheap garbage aluminum was the culprit. So on to the next BS. I tilted the table and fired her up. I actually got through one of my 4 cleats. During the second rip, the blade came off the wheels. I opened it up and tuned her up per the manual. Put the blade back on and tried again. This time two tires came off … :-(

Granted this is to be expected when I have tools from the 1950’s. They still have all the original parts and were probably not maintained as the manual suggests. Which is why I have come to my realization that just like in the stock market, I was sucked into the VALUE TRAP. I couldn’t see past the fact that I could get a TS and BS with nice metal stands for $20 total. The time and effort I put into rewiring the motor and tuning up the saws felt like a giant waste. Granted I could get new tires for the BS and fix the TS pulley (now bent) or only use the TS for straight cross cuts … but I have a small shop. Which brings me to my new revelation:

I have a big interest in this hobby as I find it extremely relaxing and constructive. I want to spend my limited time working on projects, not rehabbing old tools. I have a huge appreciation for the older tools and I’m sure they still work 100% as intended in better hands … but I just don’t have it in me. I am throwing in the towel.

This is when I posted my forum topic about a new TS recommendation. I told my wife about the near kickback and she was actually in the shop with me when the tires came off the BS … so she said … buy something new with some better safety features and just get back to work on your projects.

So I’m happy to say that I have an electrician coming to my house Thursday 10/25/2012 to install a new 200amp service with a 100amp sub-panel to my garage. I am going to run wires for 220 and 110 all over my side of the shop and I’m investing in a nice higher end saw with riving knife. I was going back and forth between a hybrid, contractor, or cabinet saw in that forum … but I eventually ran into some electrical issues in the garage which I needed to address anyways. If I’ll have 220 capabilities, I decided to get a well made saw with great safety features that I can grow into as I progress through the hobby. Grizzly is at the top of my list. Specifically the G0690 3hp 220v cabinet saw for $1,250. I’ll post another update to this blog when the electrician is complete and I’ve got some more news.

3 comments so far

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2311 days

#1 posted 10-23-2012 07:54 PM

I enjoyed reading your blogs so far. Glad you’re enjoying the hobby and getting the opportunity to upgrade your tools along the way. Stay safe and have fun!

-- John, BC, Canada

View MisterInquisitive's profile


32 posts in 2122 days

#2 posted 10-25-2012 03:21 PM

I have well-maintained older equipment. Newer machines usually have identical mechanisms, but aren’t built as solid as the older units. Eventually, new machines develop the same problems, and since they often contain cheaper components (bearings, switches, you name it) they break down as fast or faster than something you’d find on CL. An old bandsaw with new tires and blade guides is almost always going work better for you than a new one, and almost always costs less. If you’re already using hand tools, you could probably get by with a band saw to do all your rip cuts, then a hand plane to fine tune to depth or joints like a French cleat. Cross cuts with a hand saw are quicker and just as accurate, once you develop the skill. I find table saws from any era to be dicey, especially without a blade guard or kickback dogs, and do not believe their limited utility justifies the risk involved in using them. Even in the hands of an experienced operator, and perhaps especially in the hands of an experienced operator, they often lead to horrific accidents. Plus they take up loads of space.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3009 days

#3 posted 10-26-2012 12:20 AM

Your off to a great start and building a nice collection of tools. Look forward to seeing more of your progress. Keep up the good work.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

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