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Thread: Justifying tool purchases for Hobby Work

  1. #1

    Justifying tool purchases for Hobby Work

    My 9-5 is special education assessments. Keeps me busy and I take a good amount of work home. We're having our first child end of June which will add a completely different dynamic to our lives.

    Buddy of mine had a good point regarding spending money on expensive tools, specifically a festool domino and tracksaw. He doesn't have either and neither do I but we want both. He pointed out the time saved in setup and jig making makes these tools desirable and I hadn't thought of it that way really. Often time I'll spend half the day dialing in a jig or fixing a tool before I even get going on the project.

    Something like a domino or tracksaw significantly speed that up but at a cost.

    I'm starting a rocking chair and place I got my wood from, the seller pulled out his festool ts75 track saw to cut it down and I was blown away. I don't use sheet good often and when I do I have home depot cut them down. That ts75 would sure be nice and also be able to cut 45s in thick stuff like slabs and table tops.

    How do you rationalize a tool purchase?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Dickinson, Texas
    Blog Entries
    In the mean time a 1x4 strait edge makes a good rip guide.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Kansas City
    I don't. If I have the money to buy it and I want it,I get it. I do always try to find it used.

    Problem is, most of the time I don't have the money

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Leesville, SC
    There is no way that I can justify a domino or a track saw. I've gotten by this long without them so I'll just keep on doing what I have always done.
    Army Veteran 1968 - 1970
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    I Support the Second Amendment of the US Constitution

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Peoria, IL
    This isn't the 60s & 70s. The idea of leaving your wife to care for the baby while you go to your shop and enjoy the solitude while you make noise and dust is LONG OVER. Unless you have some sort of special relationship, or have a nanny in the planning, I suggest you wait at least 5 years before thinking about dropping that kind of cash on tools. Kids eat up a tremendous amount of time and effort. Sorry to say your woodworking hours will be very limited. If you add a second child, the parenting effort goes up exponentially. In that case you won't need tools for about 14 years, if soccer and other activities are factored in.

  6. #6
    Every woodworker or for that mater metal worker, motor head, gardener, etc. has a threshold for when to buy a new tool and justify it. Depending on your means and whether your significant other has an opinion, most people have a "need a tool for a project budget" threshold that is usually proportional to the total cost of the project. It is much harder to justify a tool just because you know it will make some undefined future projects easier, more precise, etc. My favorite pastime is to invent a project that cannot be built without a specific tool and therefore I must both build this project and buy that tool.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Patrick - This sounds like a perfect way to buy Festool at 50% of retail. You and your buddy each go in half and share these tools. You mentioned speeding up your work, but at a cost. Think about your opportunity cost as the trade-off.

    I own a Festool track saw and Domino and both are game changers. The track saw is also great for a straight line rip, it's not just for sheet goods.

    My Festool tools allow me to achieve better results with much higher efficiency. They are so nice that I enjoy woodworking more than ever. So for me, it's easy to rationalize.

  8. I just remind myself of the money I used to spend on booze and pills and weed and coke, then suddenly woodworking seems cheap and sobriety seems even more pleasant

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Irish View Post
    How do you rationalize a tool purchase?
    It all depends on the level of your disposable (hobby) income, after the household budget is met, the family recreational/vacation budget is considered, the emergency and medical fund is fully loaded, chosen charities are considered, and with a new child on the way, the college fund is factored in! No way I would stretch things to buy expensive tools.

    With an large enough excess, no justification or rationalization is needed except what involves sharing with a spouse who may have different interests! For example, my Lovely Bride of 50 years loves to travel the world so I haven't bought that new woodworking tool yet, the new 3500 diesel truck with leather seats, radar collision control systems, on-board internet! (ah, I did recently get an excavator to move logs...)


  10. #10
    Generally speaking it needs to be a tool I'm going to use for a project I already have in mind. Otherwise you just start accumulating a lot of junk. In the case of the domino there are a number of other methods, so it's more of a luxury than a necessity. Same thing with a track saw.

    After that you have to ask if you have the money to afford it. If you're planning on putting it on a credit card, you don't have the money. If you don't have a good sized reserve in the bank, you don't have the money.

    Finally I'd ignore Richard. I've got two kids, and it's rough for the first year or so, but after that the work load starts to drop off as you or your wife is nolonger up half the night feeding the child.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Clarks Summit PA
    I agree with many above. When my children were young, I limited my woodworking time and really enjoyed family time. I am glad I made that choice. I cherish those years more than my best piece of furniture. Even now, though I can afford expensive tools like a domino I hesitate to accumulate tools and will enjoy taking my time chopping a mortise and sawing a tenon by hand. I enjoy woodworking - it is a hobby.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Günter VögelBerg View Post
    I just remind myself of the money I used to spend on booze and pills and weed and coke, then suddenly woodworking seems cheap and sobriety seems even more pleasant
    Boy, I was going to offer an opinion, but I just can't top that rationale.
    Good for you.

    I will say this though, especially when it comes to Festool products; as long as you've taken reasonable care of the tool, you should be able to sell it for most of what you paid and there's a ready market for doing so. So at least your decision is not an irrevocable one.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Justification for any tool purchase is a very subjective thing, Patrick, and that's true whether you are a hobbyist or a pro...or both. "What" that justification is might be different for those scenarios, however. Or maybe not.

    Most of my tool purchases, both major/stationary tools and electric handhelds, were made while I was still strictly a hobbyist. The exception was my CNC machine and that came after I decided to open my part-time retirement business, so it was more a matter of timing. Early when I first any inexperienced person, I paid too much attention to price, not realizing how much that would cost me. And yes, I meant that wording. Stuff you have to replace early and often is a lot more costly than buying something "at least really decent" the first time. Eventually, I adopted the strategy of buying the best I could afford, even if I had to wait a little longer to get it. What I do try to avoid is buying something on a whim or that would have limited use for the projects I do unless there was something uniquely special about it that made it "necessary" despite that limited use. I recently bought some very specialized tools for guitar making that fit into that category, although I believe that if I continued with that "hobby within my hobby/business" those will also pay off over time.

    I somewhat agree with your friend that better engineered tools, including those that are part of a system like Festool, have redeeming factors that can mitigate their higher initial costs. That's been my experience and all of the tools I mostly bought in the mid to late 2000s still look and run like new. So when I take what I paid and divide it up over the years I've had use of them so far, the "cost" to me is very palatable. I'd probably feel similarly if I had equipped myself with the "top of the line" tools from other brands. Better engineered tools and systems doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. That's not universal for sure.

    So ... justification. Only you can really answer that as well as support it financially. Sometimes we do need to choose "get er done" and go with something that's capable but not ideal. The Festool track saw is really nice and I highly recommend it, for example. But I'll not ignore the reality that you CAN do similar work with a regular circular saw and a home-made fence. Using the latter takes more work and care to get the same level of accuracy, but you can do it. Here you have to balance money with your time which you mention is a key factor with your current circumstances. Pay more; get the work done faster and easier. Pay less; get the work done with a little more time and effort. (that's specific to a track saw relative to context)

    And Domino...the ONE Festool that I think many folks could benefit from no matter what color/pricepoint they prefer for all other tools. It's that good. IMHO.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rainey View Post
    I agree with many above. When my children were young, I limited my woodworking time and really enjoyed family time. ...
    We think alike! I wasn't doing much woodworking then, but when my children were very young I decided to quite flying airplanes as a hobby so I could concentrate on them. It was great fun but a great expense. I still needed plenty of hobbies but stuck more with things I could do in and around the house like music, art, and building things outdoors they could climb on and through! When older we got things like dirt bikes and 4-wheelers, also good for quality family fun time.

    I was also fortunate to work at home all the years when the youngest needed special attention, from grade school through middle school - I could take him to school every morning and be there in five minutes if necessary during the day.

    Now with grandkids there's a whole new opportunity for investing in quality time and some of that is in the shop. Things just get better and better!


    The 9-year-old and I built a kaleidoscope last week. This weekend it's pinewood derby time.

  15. #15
    Having been in the construction trades all my life, except for a six year stint teaching (shop classes,) only two tools I ever bought didn't pay for them selves. First is a Unisaw, which resides exactly where it landed in shop over ten years ago, and second is a Bosch Bulldog rotor hammer which I bought just before closing up the business. I could sell Uni for over twice what I paid for it, so money isn't lost. So as a hobbiest, I can't condone, nor condem buying tools

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