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Ron Hedrick
02-12-2008, 12:54 PM
When I was a child my dad made me an airplane from wood. About the only thing that made this resemble a plane was that it had a fuselage, wings, rudder, propeller and tail section. Probably at this time if I still had that plane and took it on Antiques Road Show, they would classify it as American Folk Art and it would be worth a lot monetarily. As I grew older I came to the realization that this object was not a very good depiction of an airplane, in fact it was downright rudimentary. Somewhere along the line it was thrown away. I would give the Antiques Road Show price to have that airplane back. My dad made this airplane with the most rudimentary of tools. We were poor and my dad could never afford the better tools. This brings me to my point.

A week or so ago there was a post on this website that stated either buy the best, (never stated buy the best that you could afford), buy the best or don't buy anything. I took exception with that statement. I was chastised by one of the moderators concerning my response. I backed off. For some reason that post really bothered me. I cannot afford the best, I can afford moderate to good tools and equipment. Since that post I have not even felt like going into the shop. I'm hoping that this post is cathartic for me, which is why I am posting this. That reason and no other.

If the moderators want to ban me from this site, fine, do so. But, I am going to get this off of my chest. If the moderators want to pull this post that is fine also. I am going back into my shop with my less than the best and once again turn out what I hope would have made my dad proud. So let the chips fall where they may (wood chips that is).

Thank you all for your insights and help.

Scott Rader
02-12-2008, 12:59 PM
everyone is different...not everyone can afford the most expensive equipment.

Eric DeSilva
02-12-2008, 1:02 PM
I missed the prior post, but the statement that you should buy the best or not buy at all is patently absurd. To play off your analogy, its the pilot, not the plane. I've seen beautiful things come from simple tools and met people that--even with the best of tools--couldn't produce anything I'd ever want. Besides, the best is subjective anyway.

I smile when I see posts about concerns regarding runouts of a gazillionth of an inch. Getting the most out of your tools I understand. But, when I start worrying about that, you might as well take my shop away. I'd say buy the best you can afford--there is a false economy in cheap tools if you outgrow them and replace them. Tools, in my book, are for life. But, even if you can't afford a Felder or whatever, for many of us woodworking is about a process and doing something with your hands. You don't need to spend the national debt to find it rewarding.

Now, go back into your shop and make something. ;)

Rod Sheridan
02-12-2008, 1:12 PM
Ron, the advice in the above posts is excellent.

My father-in-law is a retired cabinet maker, served his apprenticeship in a shop that was several hundred years old at the time.

He can make a Chippendale chair out of an old milk crate, using a wooden spoon and a finger nail file.

I can't make a Chippendale chair using the snazziest, most expensive machinery known to mankind.

Over the last 30 odd years of woodworking, I've found that purchasing high quality tools and machinery saves money in the long run.

I think we all come to that conclusion eventually, however that doesn't mean you need an Altendorf to build your first bird feeder.

It is false economy to purchase inferior objects that require replacement, however it's worse to let people discourage you from woodworking with their elitist comments.

Go out to the shop, build something, develop your skills and machinery collection over the years as interest and finances permit.

Most importantly, enjoy the hobby, and in time become a mentor for someone else, that's what the more senior woodworkers should be doing, not discouraging interested particpants.

Regards, Rod.

Matthew Voss
02-12-2008, 1:17 PM
I would hope you do not to let anyone participating in this forum discourage you, including moderators. Perhaps the moderator's tone was misinterpreted.

It is the swordsman friend, not the sword. I wouldn't take it personally.

Bob DeWolfe
02-12-2008, 1:21 PM
A friend uses tools that have been cast offs, (from the dump or on there way there), not one new tool. The shop was built with recycled materials. It is a delight to see him work and the pieces he puts out. Most could be sold for a lot of money but he does this for family and friends giving away everything and not making a dime. The materials he uses are all recycled and has not paid anything for them. He makes do with what he has. He is respected for his knowledge and people are always seeking his guidance which he gives willingly. His enjoyment comes from making good pieces and overcomming the short falls in his equipment. I am proud to call him a friend, a mentor, and teacher and hope that one day my work can be a great as his.

Use what you have and keep making chips.

Dave Anderson NH
02-12-2008, 1:35 PM
Hi Ron,

As a moderator, I'd like to note that we do not censor posts or threads for content except when they are on prohibited topics like sex, religion, or politics, etc. What we do chide folks for is posts which make personal attacks, use rude and condescending language, denigrate products without data to back up a viewpoint, or otheerwise "flame". I did not read the other thread, so I can't comment on why oyu were chided, but we try very hard not to be arbitrary. Unfortunately, this is sometimes a judgement call and we aren't always perfect.

Now on to your topic....

It is often forgotten that some of the finest crafted and designed furniture was made before the era of power tools. Likewise, woodworkers in many third world countries produce beautiful pieces with minimal tools, many of which are of a quality that almost all of us at any income level in the developed world would consider trash and throw in the rubbish. The bottom line is that woodworking at a high level is about craftsmanship, not tools. Top level craftsmanship does not come easily or quickly. It must be earned over time and it often requires sacrifices of lumber to the god of mistakes.

My personal take is that you buy the best you can afford and if something is just barely out of reach financially you wait to buy and find a way to work around the problem. The most important tool we own is between our ears and most of us take the easy way out and buy another tool rather than exercise our brain power. When I was younger and funds were limited by a lower income and the raising of children, I still found a way to get things done. If I really needed something I asked family to either give me money or got the family to pool resources to get me a present.

Summary: Care and craftmanship trumps money and fancy equipment every time.

Joe Vee
02-12-2008, 1:44 PM
Ron,

Based on these posts, I would say the majority of us are on budgets. The most expensive tool I own is my Woodmaster 712, and I only bought it because for the money it does the job of 4 tools. All my other tools are lower end, and I make some decent wood projects. To me it's relaxing to take raw wood and use my "cheap" machines' and make stuff. Good luck

Joe

Jim Becker
02-12-2008, 2:14 PM
What Dave said. And I remind folks that public discussion of moderation is not allowed at SMC.

Jim
SMC Moderator
---------------

And IMHO, it should always be "buy the best (for you) that you can afford". But my corollary/addition to that is "even if you have have to wait an extra month or three to aquire the means to do so." As consumers, we have an obligation to ourselves to maximize the value for anything we decide to purchase including our tools. I wasted a lot of money early in my woodworking endeavors becasue I bought things that were guaranteed to cost me more money in the long run because they would not last or would not really work well for the jobs at hand. If I don't express concern on this, than as a community member, I feel I've failed the community.

Steven DeMars
02-12-2008, 2:18 PM
I am what most people call a realist. You have to realize that most people on this site are woodworkers due to their choice as a hobby to relax. They come from all walks of life. A lot of these guys are retired from life long professions. They have $$$$$ to spend. . .When you figure you have only X amount of time left, you tend to not waste it . . . You buy the best if you can, makes the hobby go smoother.

When someone suggest "buy the best or nothing", usually that someone has already bought something less and has had to deal with the disappointment it caused. I would far rather have a shop full of bench top Delta equipment than only a MINMAX 30" band saw.

Another thing you have to consider, are your skills at this point developed enough to really utilize let's say a $8,500.00 ONEWAY lathe or a Felder Slider.

I have a nice Delta Contractor's Saw. Trust me, beyond dust collection it can do anything I am capable of doing, "at this point" . . as my skills improve, I'll buy better.

On a whole, I have never seen anyone say anything but positive on this site. That reminds me, need to go to PayPal and make my 2008 donation.

Lee Koepke
02-12-2008, 3:04 PM
and dont forget, the plane your dad built ... he did it for himself and you. The woodworking you do, and what you do it with is for the same people!

I am not discouraged by the comments here, and I use them all in my evaluation process. Personally, I just bought a set of Groz handplanes, immediately after reading 10 posts saying dont do it !!! I am stubborn that way ..

Keep up the good attitudes !!!

Sean Troy
02-12-2008, 3:17 PM
When I was a child my dad made me an airplane from wood. About the only thing that made this resemble a plane was that it had a fuselage, wings, rudder, propeller and tail section. Probably at this time if I still had that plane and took it on Antiques Road Show, they would classify it as American Folk Art and it would be worth a lot monetarily. As I grew older I came to the realization that this object was not a very good depiction of an airplane, in fact it was downright rudimentary. Somewhere along the line it was thrown away. I would give the Antiques Road Show price to have that airplane back. My dad made this airplane with the most rudimentary of tools. We were poor and my dad could never afford the better tools. This brings me to my point.

A week or so ago there was a post on this website that stated either buy the best, (never stated buy the best that you could afford), buy the best or don't buy anything. I took exception with that statement. I was chastised by one of the moderators concerning my response. I backed off. For some reason that post really bothered me. I cannot afford the best, I can afford moderate to good tools and equipment. Since that post I have not even felt like going into the shop. I'm hoping that this post is cathartic for me, which is why I am posting this. That reason and no other.

If the moderators want to ban me from this site, fine, do so. But, I am going to get this off of my chest. If the moderators want to pull this post that is fine also. I am going back into my shop with my less than the best and once again turn out what I hope would have made my dad proud. So let the chips fall where they may (wood chips that is).

Thank you all for your insights and help.
The important thing is get back in the shop and do what you do best and have fun doing it. some of the best info on the web can be found here as well as opinions. Take it with a grain of salt . Be safe

Thomas Knighton
02-12-2008, 3:41 PM
Just my opinion, but don't let it get under your skin to much. Quality tools are a great thing to have, but nothing says you have to spend a fortune on anything despite what some people may say. So long as the tool does what you need it to do, nothing else matters.

People who make comments like "buy the best or don't buy anything" are actually well-meaning folks. They're trying to save someone from aggrevation and heartache. Unfortunately, they're really discouraging a lot of folks from ever putting steel to wood. Waiting for a used cabinet saw, or having to wait to buy a saw until I had an extra $1K laying around would have kept me from ever building anything. Circumstances changed and I found myself leaning toward hand tools instead, but that's irrelevant. What is imporant is these folks mean well, but don't realize the negative side of their comments.

Don't sweat the small stuff...none of us are getting out of life alive ;)

Tom

Gary Breckenridge
02-12-2008, 3:53 PM
Schlubs like me have to make do with mass market tools from Delta, Stanley, Porter Cable and Skil. While I realize this is a notch above Borg specials they are two notches above Harbor Freight products. That said there is a level above mass marketers that I don't look at seriously. And there is even another level of super precision tools for the super rich. Table saws can run from $250 to over $8000 and they all will cut a 2 x 4. Quailty used tools and family heirlooms are another story.:D

Warren Clemans
02-12-2008, 4:15 PM
I used to do a lot of rock and ice climbing back when I was younger and invincible. I enjoyed hanging around climbing shops talking gear with the sales guys and other customers. I remember one old timer who finally had enough. His opinion was that if there's something you can't climb, chances are the problem is you, not your gear. Obviously the best gear will help at the margins, but as many others have said in previous posts, it's the craftsman, not the tools, that matters. My daughter has a doll crib that my grandfather made for my mom out of a packing crate using only his pocketknife (or so the story goes). Just go to work and ignore the festoolers! (Nothing against them, of course...)

Steve Sawyer
02-12-2008, 4:35 PM
Some people tend to speak in absolutes, Ron, and unfortunately it affects woodworkers as much as anyone else. The principle of deciding on spending a bit more and buying something once, rather than pinching pennies and upgrading several times is a good principle to keep in mind. But it is an idea to help us in making wise purchase decisions.

When I first started in this hobby about 30 years ago, I had very few tools, and they were of marginal quality. Despite that, I was able to enjoy myself immensely, learned a lot, and turned out some pieces of which I am still proud.

"The best you can afford" is indeed what everyone should be saying, because we each have varying budgets. But again, the principle is to encourage the purchase of tools that are a pleasure to work with and retain both their utility and their value. If all you can afford is stuff from Harbor Freight, you might have to fuss with stuff a bit more, but you might also actually develop some valuable skills as you learn to compensate for less-than-ideal tools.

So yeah, get back in the shop, enjoy yourself and don't let someone's tendency to see (and express) things as black-and-white spoil things for you, or obscure the wisdom that can underly even the most obnoxious pronouncements.

Steve Rozmiarek
02-12-2008, 9:42 PM
Hi Ron, hope I can add something of substance here. When I started woodworking, I couldn't afford a lot of good tools, but I had a lot of fun using what I had. Now that I have and can afford really good tools, I still have fun, but because I have so much less time, part of the joy of woodworking is now just using a sweet tool. Situations change, but one thing remains a constant, we're all in this to enjoy something, so who cares what anyone else thinks is the right amount of money to spend on a tool, as long as your having a good time.

Danny Thompson
02-13-2008, 11:02 AM
The most useful power tool in my shop is a cheap $99 Delta Shopmaster table saw embedded in a workbench made from 2x4's, MDF, and formica. Oh, wait, I did add a Biesemeyer fence, but it was a blem on clearance . . .

The best piece of furniture to come out of my shop, the one that gets the best response, has a hand-scraped finish made with a cheap Lowes block plane (blade cambered).

I am adding better tools as I can afford them, but no faster. Stick with what you've got, and if you don't want to spend the money on LV or LN then follow Marcus Ward's advice about cheap Stanley hand planes. It is certainly a sound strategy.

Jason Scott
02-13-2008, 12:43 PM
Ron,

I just wanted to state one fact, the finest Italian exotics, Lamborghini for example, were "hand crafted" with "rudimentry" hand tools. After stating that, I have found that "top of the line" equipment, which I have very little of, aid in making a project "easier", not "better". I started off as a kid the way you did, although I would not consider my upbringing "poor", my shop was outfitted with gifts, from mom and dad, or grandparents, and lets face it, no one gives a budding, young woodworker top of the line Powermatic equipment, oh how I wish they did lol. Anyway, about a year ago I got back into woodworking from a decade away from it...One of the reasons was b/c I was extremely frustrated with the outcome of my projects. I thought it was b/c I had crappy equipment. Some of this was true, ever try to get something square, when cut on something not square? It is difficult to say the least, especially for someone that is still in much of a "learning" process. So while top of the line tools certainly aids in making a project go a little smoother, it is by far away as the 1 thing that will make a project nice, skill and experience I have found is what does that. The only reason I am posting is b/c I have heard several folks state the same thing you have, heck I have even had people on the internet make fun of an old Craftsman tablesaw I had, and they treated me as if I shouldn't even be woodworking...Like you I got heated up over it, but in the end, some people are just jerks, and they will never change. I saved up, and bought equipment when I could, the first purchase was my Powermatic 64A tablesaw. It is an awesome saw, and one of the best "contractor style" saws out there IMO, but it is far from the "best". I waited for a great deal, and found one new in a guys shop, still in the box for 500 bucks, not bad when they are 1000.00. So my advice, is just remember that some of the finest things were crafted without the modern tools everyone drools over now, and if you ever forget, you will remember when you see a picture of a priceless Italian sports car ;) Don't let anyone tell you "tools make the craftsman", it just simply is not true. I've seen guys on here that have craftsman saws produce outstanding stuff that I only wish I could do right now on my Powermatic, just look at Matt, from mattsbasementworkshop podcast. Tools make it easier, not better IMO, now if only I could stop with the "it has to be perfect" mentality, that is even worse than thinking tools make the craftsman. Good luck man!

Peter Quinn
02-13-2008, 12:54 PM
Hi Ron...I say chin up sir! Step into your shop each time ready to do your best work and enjoy the process. The trees after all have done most of the really hard work for us already. Wood is a generous, complicated and ultimately forgiving medium that offers the craftsman a lifetime of joy through which to experience its splendor. Don't let any person's opinion affect your relationship with your craft.

Seems to me forums like this offer woodworkers a great place to exchange techniques, teach their methods and explore new ones. Being new to the Creek I find it is an excellent place to get equipment reccommendations from a group of people with broad and diverse experience. That's what brought me here in the first place. Most tool makers don't offer test drives (shame!) so the best you can do is ask other owners and filter the responses.

My own opinions regarding shop equipment have been forged by a lifetime of experience growing up in a family of tradesmen that made their living with their`hands and tools. My opinions are specific to my background, needs, budget and situation thus I'm never sure they are of any real value to others, but I continue to offer them just in case.

My grand father was a pipe fitter with eight children in a New England mill town who's heyday had long passed. Times were tight, means were limited. Over his lifetime he built a hobby cabinet shop outfitted with quality hand tools and machines each of which in relative terms had cost him dearly. He eschewed the instant gratification of buying lesser tools opting instead to be creative with what he owned, save for what he wanted, and make good use of his friends generousity with their equipment. My family still own's and uses many of the tools he bought and many of the things he made with them. He made neither excuses nor apoligies for the things he had or the things he lacked, and neither should anyone of us.

Of one thing I am certain; my shop is my own space, and when I enter it all these things fade from my mind. There's just me, my tools, and the wood. When you do work for sale to others it has to please them, but when your work is a personal journey for your own enjoyment there are no critics that matter and only one judge...YOU!

Mark Roderick
02-13-2008, 1:20 PM
Nobody means "Buy the best or don't buy anything at all" literally. Those of us who like like Lie-Nielsen hand planes still have to acknowledge that you can get better quality by spending twice or three times as much. And as somebody who likes and recommends Lie-Nielsen hand planes because they show what a hand plane can do, it still baffles me why any hobbyist would buy something like Felder or even Festool, where (in my opinion) the increase in accuracy is way beyond anything useful or even relevant to woodworking. At the end of the day, as long as you understanding what you're getting, to each his own.

And yet there are some items marketed as "tools" that are not worth buying at any price. I recall when I was a young homeowner and needed to cut wood from a soffit to install a vent. I purchased a Black & Decker jig saw from a home center, and the darned thing just wouldn't cut the 3/4 inch pine. It smoked and whined and about 20 minutes later I had my small hole, with blackened edges.

A couple of years later I bought a Bosch jigsaw and had a revelation the first time I made a cut. The Black & Decker, which was still on my shelf, went directly into the trash.

There are lots and lots of "tools" on the market like the Black & Decker jigsaw. Chisels with backs so warped and steel so poor they can never be sharpened. Electric saws with bearings so poor they can never cut straight. On and on. I'm sure that by number there are many, many more of those kinds of "tools" on the market than there are real tools.

Don't buy any of that cr*p, period. Beyond that, as long as you understand the tradeoffs you're making between price and quality, each of us has to find the balance that makes us happy.

Danny Thompson
02-13-2008, 2:11 PM
Ditto on that B&D jigsaw to Bosch experience! On the other hand, $150 is a LOT for a jigsaw and hard to justify when funds are tight and your money would be better spent on diapers, an oil change, or a flu shot. Sometimes you just have to make do.

That's where you have to look for alternate techniques that may do the job well but at a fraction of the cost--e.g., maybe try a decent coping saw.

The problem is, when you don't have a lot of money to drop on this hobby, buying a tool is a little like marrying it. Your "life partner" is never going to understand when you want to replace a B&D jigsaw, no matter what you say about the one that costs 5 times as much, not as long as the B&D is still running.

So my advice is to make your purchases carefully, even when they are less expensive. Buy the best quality tool you-can-justify-in-your-own-mind for the job, including options that may not be the tool you initially had in mind.

Good luck.

Russ Sears
02-13-2008, 2:29 PM
Bob Jones, the famous golfer, won the US and British Opens and Amateurs in 1930. It was an unheard-of feat and he received a ticker tape parade as a result.
He was using hickory shafted clubs at a time when many of his competitors were using steel.
His "piloting" skills were much more important than his "airplanes".

Having said that, he remarked that he was never really comfortable with his 7 iron.
When frequency matching of shafts came into vogue, his clubs were pulled from the museum wall and tested. It was found that the shaft on his 7 iron had a different flex point from his other clubs. So, perhaps, better tools would have made him a better golfer. However, it's my guess that better tools would not have made anywhere near the difference in the outcome than his skill at using his tools did. My clubs are better than his by any objective criteria and I'm lucky to break 95.

There's an analogy in there somewhere.

Ron Hedrick
02-14-2008, 9:04 AM
I would like to thank everyone for their words of encouragement and their thoughts on this subject. In my opinion we forget that it is not the fact that we own the biggest, baddest or most expensive but how well we use what we have. I know for a fact that if someone gave me the most expensive of all shop tools and gave a Maloof or a Krenov Dollar General quality tools they would still kick my butt. I think that sometimes we loose site of the fact that this is a fun and creative activity and we shouuld encourage all who come here no matter what tools they own or whatever their skill set. Once again thanks.