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Thread: Do we all 'HAVE' to have the ideal latest/greatest tool?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Do we all 'HAVE' to have the ideal latest/greatest tool?

    This topic came up on a different thread, that much of the advice in the power tools sections is geared towards very expensive, ideal solutions. Many of the active members in this section are professionals or psuedo professionals. And a lot of posts are about the merits of buying the ideal tool because it saves $ in the long run. (labor saving, never fails, maintenance free, etc)

    Yet there are many here that just do not have the budget for such a philosophy. Especially when just starting out and not sure if the hobby will stick, or not sure exactly which aspect of it fits the personal style.

    I started out with a borrowed router, three chisels I bought myself. Some clamps. And a circ saw of my fathers. From that I made a very nice bookcase which is still in use to this day (and I was able to get a local chap to run through the planer for me, for $5 - if I helped clean up afterwards). Things grew from there. In very modest increments as my budget allowed.

    So I would be interested in hearing what others started with. The general wisdom from this section, at least sometimes, comes across as you cannot do anything unless you start with a large DC system, a slider, a tracksaw, a festool sander, and lots of LN/LV hand planes (oh, and a bandsaw needs to be... well, dont go there). It starts to feel like a sales showroom floor at times, or 'keeping up with the Jones of SMC. I attribute it to the many years of experience and knowledge base that many of you have, sharing generously, so the next person is more efficient in their path to where you got. But most of us will land on a somewhat different path, and besides the journey is part of the overall experience (of life in general!).

    Sorry I dont mean to slam all the great advice that is here and hope it isnt coming across this way. It IS great advice, and some very knowledgable people with way more know how that I will ever learn. But to a newcomer just starting out, it might be intimidating and overwhelming, and/or not even the best advice at times, given the financial implications (I have a hard time advising people to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a 'hobby' - most people just cannot afford it).

    PLEASE, I intend this post in the most RESPECTFUL manner possible.
    Last edited by Carl Beckett; 01-06-2019 at 6:40 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Westchester County NY
    Buy the best you can buy and buy what makes sense.

    I don't think anyone here is advocating that everyone should buy a Martin slider

  3. #3
    There are all kinds of people in this world, and you'll find all kinds of people on here as well. I've seen people come out of the gates with their newly-found hobby of woodworking, and go straight to buying the best of everything they can get. Money is no object. If a Martin slider is the best, they go straight to that. Then, a year and $100,000 later, they lose interest in the hobby and are on to the next thing.

    I think the first thing a new woodworker needs to figure out is whether or not they really like woodworking. That takes time, and it there is no need to spend a lot of money to do that. The bottom line is that (at least most times) cheap tools can usually do a job that an expensive ones do. I've made really nice furniture with very basic tools that you can buy at a hardware store that I couldn't make any nicer with the nice tools that I have now. That said, working with good-quality, nice tools makes the job easier and I can do it faster. For example, you can make a perfect, chip-free cut on ply by cutting 1/8" proud with a circular saw with a $7 blade on it, and then use a hand held router with a straight bit, run along a piece of aluminum angle to clean it up to your line. It might take you 10-15 minutes to set up and make that cut. I can do that same cut on my Altendorf in about 10-15 seconds. Exactly same outcome, just a different method of getting there. So, yeah... it's not required to spend a lot of money on expensive tools.

    If, after a year or so, the person really decides they love the hobby, they can invest whatever time and money they want into it. They'll have a better idea at this time, too, of what they'll want and/or need.

    People spend their money on (and value) different things. Some people will think that spending money on expensive tools is a waste of money, yet they'll not even think twice about trading in their year-old vehicle on the newest model every year. To each his own! Nobody can tell you what to spend your money on - that's up to you to decide. If you want to take in advice from other people to save possible headaches or mistakes, that's your choice as well. No need for anyone to be intimidated or pressured into anything here. If anyone is pushy or judgemental, then they're probably just an idiot. They're here, they're everywhere. We just have to choose to ignore them.
    Last edited by Keith Weber; 01-06-2019 at 7:34 AM.

  4. #4
    Your point is valid Carl. When practical/possible, my approach to problems is to start cheap and get a sense of what is really required. Then I buy better, where it's going to help. That does "waste" some money because I bought the tool twice, but I look at the "waste" as tuition I pay to learn what I really need. Many people disagree with that, but it works for me. (I need to stress I am a hobbyist. The problem is different for someone making their living at this.)

    I started with a $100 direct drive tablesaw, a corded electric drill, a circular saw, a corded hand-held saber saw and 4 pipe clamps. I built simple things I needed. I truly hated that tablesaw and replaced it with a used contractor saw with a 52" Biesemeyer fence. Yup, I could have bought a Unisaw etc - they sure are nice. But the cheap direct drive taught me that a good fence and a large table was what mattered most to me, for what I wanted to build. I have never needed or even wanted anything else.

    This story goes on and on for me and other tools. It works for me and I have evolved to a toolset that Im happy with. (Now, if I could just say that about sharpening equipment....)

    Look forward to reading other peoples' thoughts here.
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 01-06-2019 at 7:51 AM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Camillus, NY
    Some build shops, others build projects in whatever shop they have. Each to their own. The tools that I purchased when I needed them are used all the time. Those that I bought because the were neat, sit for long periods of time.😀 Whatever floats your boat.

    "It is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation" - Herman Melville

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Griswold Connecticut
    I am neither a professional, nor pseudo professional, I work in a nuclear power plant in Connecticut. I'm just a guy working in his garage.
    My "shop" is comprised of an "L" shaped space along the side and back of my garage. Each leg is roughly 19'x9'. My machines are "basic level" machines. I did kind of "splurge" on a 27", dual drum sander, but the rest of the machines do not represent a significant investment. Most were purchased as floor model demo's, or off Craigslist.
    I have done some "side work", mostly for coworkers, or friends, but nothing that would even begin to be defined as an "income stream" by any definition.

    I do have some nice tools also, but those are tools that were either Christmas presents from my wife, or bought for a purpose specific task. I bought my Festool TS75 to break down a 2" thick padauk slab that was 17' long and 34"-36" wide. I needed the depth of cut afforded by the TS75. That slab was literally worked on a car carrier.
    I have a Festool OF2200 that was purchased to router holes in that same padauk slab, that were killing my hands and large Porter Cable router. the OF2200 took the same bit and the work went effortlessly.
    I have an assortment of LN planes and chisels, but I have an equal assortment of $5.00-$35.00 dollar Stanley "Frankenplanes", and odd 750's. There is no difference in the end result.
    My DC system has been a combination of a 20 year old Jet DC-1100, 4" flexible hose,and two vacuums. The Jet sits outside the shop when in use. Don't underestimate the value of a $20.00 box fan from Walmart either.
    It took probably 20+ years to accumulate what I have.

    To be truthful, I am not self taught. I spent 6 years in wood shop in Jr. High and High School. I spent two years in a cabinet shop getting "Vo Tech" credits towards graduation while in high school. After high school and during college, 2 years, I worked part time with a company that specialized in circular staircase work. Point being, I knew my way around a shop before I bought my first machine at home. I never had the learning curve that many people have trying to get into wood working because of school. I am extremely fortunate in this regard. If I have any advantage, it's the formal education I have, not any machine or tool I ever bought.
    In truth, I got back into wood working for two reasons;
    To build my own furniture, because I hate the Wegner inspired "euro-look" that permeated throughout the furniture business.
    To work on my own New England house. Which is non standard, in every dimension, and every way possible.
    To be conceited, I do good work. Work that I'm proud of, and not afraid to show people.

    I am a big advocate of Craigslist to purchase machines. There are a lot of good deals if a person is willing to wait, and willing to drive a couple hundred miles. You can save a lot of $$$$ this way.

    It takes a willingness to learn, patience and developed skill to be successful in this craft. Not fancy machines or tools.

    One place I would caution you is with respect to the dust collection. A person only has a few options. One is to spend the money to filter the air and return it to the same environment, or two is to exhaust it outside the occupied space. I chose the latter. Some will say it's a waste of money, and energy, which it is, but $2000-$3000.00 dollars, the cost of a DC system, can supplement an electric bill for many, many years.

    A person does not need the newest, fancy, anodized red, whizzbang jig or tool. Any flea market hand plane can perform exactly like any LN, or LV plane, as long as all of it's parts are there and the person is willing to invest some time.

    I have more money in bicycles hanging from the pipes in my basement than I will ever have in wood working machinery, or tools. Each person is different.
    Last edited by Mike Cutler; 01-06-2019 at 8:26 AM.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  7. I started woodworking as a teenager with a 200 dollar craftsman radial arm saw, router and sabre saw . Now I am getting close to retirement and have a nice collection of tools. Pretty much all of them are old deltas or powermatic although there are a few grizzlys also. When it comes to the latest and greatest take woodpeckers for example, some their stuff I really like some of it is to gimmicky and expensive.
    That being said I have learned over the years that sometimes you should wait until you can afford what you really want rather than settling for what I can afford. ( Like they say then you only cry once)

  8. #8
    Usually you get what you pay for. Better tools are expensive for a reason. Rehabbed tools require some expertise and effort which is also a cost.

    That has never meant that if you canít afford the best violin you canít make great music. This is an extrapolation that nobody ever intends.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kansas City
    The best tool to buy is not the most expensive (even if it performs the best), its the best value for you. That is, you have to judge how much you're going to use it and for what, to determine whether it is worth it to you. People are not very good about judging value. I am just a homeowner/hobbyist, who started out with inherited low end tools, gradually replacing them as they failed. I have some good quality hand tools, and some mid-range power tools, many bought at garage/estate sales. I know that Festool tools, for example, always perform great, but I know I won't use them enough to justify the expense. So I have a Craftsman cordless drill because it was on sale cheap, a used Freud biscuit joiner instead of a Domino, and a crappy table saw instead of a Unisaw, because I know I wont put in a lot of hours on it. No $200 coping saws either.
    Last edited by Stan Calow; 01-06-2019 at 9:25 AM.

  10. #10
    I think you are in some ways right and some ways wrong. You need to consider the context of the thread. If the Original Poster is asking about setting up a professional shop then the answers tend to lean toward more expensive solutions. There are people in every hobby that have lots of money or will even borrow lots of money to have the "best" product out there. If they are fortunate to have that kind of cash and want to spend it that way, it's there choice.

    Where I think you are wrong is people always suggest craig's list here for tools, machines, and lumber too. Also if someone asked how to tune up an old plane or chisel or power tool they would get tons of help that would be low dollar solutions from people who want to help,and understand that a lot ot people, especially young people are watching every penny.

    This is a good forum and if you word your post so that people know you are watching your finances, you will get the answers you need. IMHO

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    LA & SC neither one is Cali
    The answer to the essentially rhetorical question contained in the title is an emphatic NO. This is an issue that is pervasive in hobby forums or for the hobbyists within mixed forums like SMC. I say hobby forums since professionals have a completely different set of criteria and it mainly revolves around will this tool/machine make me money, because in the professional world a tool either makes money or costs money. For the hobbyists the criteria is much different and usually varies a lot from person to person, for the hobbyist value is very subjective.

    I am a member of multiple hobby forums and within them you see vastly different budgets and commitments to the hobby. Two that leap to mind are home theater and watch forums. There are people on the HT forum that have less than a thousand dollars in their systems and some that have more than the cost of the average US home tied up in their home theater, the same with watches, some guys have collections that eclipse 1 million and some that collect inexpensive Chinese, Russian and Japanese watches and may only have two or three hundred bucks in their collection. The key to all this is OP's are pretty much required to give a budget when they ask for buying recommendations.

    A lot of people here have gone through a long arc with tools/machines and have insight at many different budget levels but met with a question about what is the "best" it is unlikely the answer will be a Harbor Freight tool without more information. I often respond to threads with nothing more than prodding for a budget and if the OP never gives one or it is one that I don't have enough experience with I won't respond. There is very little good (and possibly harm done) when we suggest a pre-built router table, high end lift and PC or Milwaukee 3+hp router when the person has a $150 budget to buy in. However, I do think it is prudent to query about what sort of dust collection someone has before they spend thousands on stationary machines.

    The reality is people have very varied budgets, experience and needs. The more the original posters frame their budget, experience (when applicable) along with their wants/needs the more on point the responses will be.

    While I started woodworking in my father's and uncle's shop when I was a kid my real foray into woodworking was during law school. I bought a used Craftsman RAS as my first "machine" and I have been upgrading my tools and tooling for the past three decades. I remember vividly working on material lists and new tool lists for each new project. At the time my budget was very tight and I would go through each operation from the first cut to the last step of finishing to ensure I had every item I needed to accomplish the task but no more. During those years I would add just enough clamps to handle the most complex glue up for the piece I was making and it forced me to do one glue up at a time often taking a week to get all the parts connected together. At that time if you had ask me about my woodworking tool dreams it would have been simply a dedicated space so I didn't have to move everything in and out of the laundry room and work on the patio along with a table saw (any table saw) and enough clamps to glue up furniture in one go. Today my dreams are a significantly different and it all comes back to budget and commitment.

    One thing I like about SMC is the ability to get advice on accomplishing a task with the bare minimum of tools as well as get a laundry list of high-end machines and tooling if you want to have the ability to do the task a thousand times quickly and with production level efficiency and precision whether you ever plan to use the capacity or not. If someone asks a question here and leads with their budget they will likely get good advice within their budget but they will probably also get good options about how to do something with what they may already have and/or how to do it quicker, easier or better with an increase in the budget. The key to peaceful coexistence is being accepting of others budgets whether they are 1/10 or ten times your own.
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Someone asked me the other day if I enjoy going to woodworking stores and I realized that I don't have any interest in that at all. And those woodworking shows aren't worth the entry fee and parking hassles. I have all the tools I need and probably more.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Carl, I use an old criteria for tool purchases be it hand or power. Time, money, aggravations. When the aggravations outweigh the time and money I usually find a way to get what I truly need. I don’t need a sliding table saw at present because aggravations have not set in. Could be they never will.

  14. #14
    Very good topic. A few random thoughts provoked by your post (these are the thoughts that go through my head when I start feeling influenced by the gear talk you're describing):

    Pick your aspiration. Do you intend to be a woodworker or a tool acquirer, or both? Even the best tools don't come with skills built in. So if one's goal is to become a woodworker, assembling a shop full of tools does not automatically make them one.

    The greatest woodworking masters were not known for their particular tools, they were known for their skills. Maloof, Krenov, Nakashima, Esherick were not remembered for the brand of table saw or band saw they owned.

    Buy the best tools you can afford, but keep them in pace with your budget, your skills, and your intentions. A well made, well designed, high quality tool will be a pleasure to use and generally accelerate your woodworking. A low quality tool will generally become some form of obstacle, usually surmountable, but still a test of patience. Your time is a valuable factor to consider too.

    I try to picture an equilateral triangle. One side is my budget, one side is my tools, one side is my skills. I am always trying to keep them equal. For the person genuinely interested in the craft of woodworking, I am a big proponent of education, even weekend workshops. In my experience, I have always left with more skills then when I arrived. In fact in some ways my existing tools became new to me because I had learned new ways to unlock their potential.
    For myself, looking at 2019 and my own triangle, I think I'm going to lay off on tool purchasing for a while and try to focus more on projects, skills, and technique development.

    It's way easier to spend money and buy tools than to actually become a talented woodworker. The latter takes time, patience, effort and practice. The former usually requires just pressing a button. As human beings we're all wired to take the path of least resistance. Something to be aware of.

    Beware of listening to a group of race car drivers talking about high performance race cars. Before long you can find yourself longing for a race car when it's never going to see a track, because you mainly commute to work and maybe drive to the local store and back.
    If you're in the racing business, that's a different story. If you're planning on undertaking a career in racing, that's a different story too. And if you're just interested in being part of a racing tribe, then that's yet a third story.

    Lastly, it's your money. If a particular splurge tool gives you pleasure, even if its a stretch to justify it, I say go for it. That was my excuse to myself when I bought a Lamello biscuit joiner.....

    So in summary, there's no right or wrong answer to the topic you've raised. I just think it's good to have one's eyes open and make your decisions accordingly. If you're asking advice from others on the forum, it's a good idea to be specific about context and goals, so the advice you get back is somewhat tailored to your situation.
    Last edited by Edwin Santos; 01-06-2019 at 9:57 AM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post

    That has never meant that if you can’t afford the best violin you can’t make great music.
    And in the alternative, even if you buy the very best violin, it will not guarantee that you can make or play great music or any music for that matter.
    Last edited by Edwin Santos; 01-06-2019 at 9:54 AM.

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