frustrated... budget, tools, quality of jigs.. advice? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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frustrated... budget, tools, quality of jigs.. advice?

Hey all, just need a moment to vent. I can't buy top of the line stuff, so I have the HF sliding chop saw, a wannabe TB fence, etc etc. and I get so frustrated when I try to build something that nothing is exactly straight. ie.. I built a nice big cross cut table saw sled this weekend, all lined up using a square. did the 5 cut method, and off by 1/16 (which is a lot in my opinion). Then built a table top for my bandsaw to include a cross cut sled - measured multiple times. used poplar for the miter slot runners, perfect fit. attach to sled table, a bit of drag, but I fixed it. cut the initial cut... off by 1/8... It just seems lately that when I build stuff w/ my tools - it is always off a bit, and it drives me nuts.

so I shut it down, and had a few beers. I have so many ideas, but I'm unsure my tools will handle my ideas. So maybe the question is... with the right (low cost) tools, and jigs to support - can you make quality stuff... (read straight and perfect)? Is this part of the learning curve? ie. I need to F#@$ stuff up to learn how to do it right? Or do you just have to have the nice stuff to make something exactly how you planned?

Also, Please tell me what are the HAVE TO HAVES when it comes to marking and measuring tools and what have you learned when it comes to "what tools/measuring tools that makes sense to spend the money on." And I know that the higher quality tools will provide a better quality experience..etc... but that's not an option for me right now.. What do you do when you are frustrated with a project and want to toss it in the trash...

OK... rant done..

thanks
J
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post #2 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 09:33 PM
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My power tools and hand tools both run the full range from very good to very bad. I rarely find that my bad results are due to the tools, except for dull blades, dull bits and such. How often do you make test cuts to see how they come out? I try that with almost every thing I do, and I usually discover that either my skill needs to get better, or I figure out a workaround to using my not-so-great tool.
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post #3 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 09:36 PM
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How much experience do you have? Have you been woodworking for a while? My tool buying was first on an as needed basis. I started with a Crapsman table saw and jointer.I hated both of them from day one. I tuned the table saw and put a high quality fence on it and it was okay. I tuned the jointer but it wouldn't stay tuned. That was the last time I bought low priced tools. Sure you can use them and make due or you can invest in tools for a life time for less than the price of an average car.

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post #4 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 09:41 PM
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Are you sure your square is actually square?

"Good Behavior is the last refuge of mediocrity" -- Henry S. Haskins
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post #5 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:04 PM
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As far as have to have marking and measuring. What ever you get be comfortable with it and make sure it truly is square and true. Check it before you buy.

I use a small tape measure, an adjustable square, a try square, a framing square, and a speed square. I had to true the speed square. Each has their own use and need. I have a straight straight edge too.

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post #6 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:34 PM
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take your square to a known straight edge, tape a sheet of paper along the edge and then use your square to make a line on the paper. then flip your square to the other side of the line and make another mark tracing your first mark. if the 2 marks are perfectly inline and the straight edge is indeed straight, then your square is infact square.

If your square is out of square it is useless. If you can not find one that is square in your price range, make one out of wood. they are easy to do in an afternoon. there are several threads on them in this forum and others online.

Also consider what you are using to mark out your lines with. the thinner the line the more accurate it will be. if your using a carpenters pencil. then 1/8" aint too shabby. try using a marking knife. Or. If your insistant on using a pencil use a .05 mechanical pencil. easier then sharpening and they leave a fine line.

I was in the same boat as you. wanting to make top quality items but can only afford the el' cheap'o tools. buy what you can afford. learn how to use them learn their effects / quirks. no two will be the same. what you can not afford but cant do with out. can you make it? you might be amazed at what a person can make with minimal cost. Buy only what you absolutly need to finish the job. and the tools will start to stack up on their own. If you sell your projects. invest part or all of your profit into a tool fund.

As to what tools you will need the most or what is more important. that depends on you. whether your a power tool or hand tool user or both. there are tons of threads on this topic, search for them. But my opinion is lay out tools. they have to be accurate to be consistant. either. buy the best you can afford. or make your own.

best of luck.

John,

Confidence does not come from always being right. It comes from not being afraid to be wrong.
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post #7 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:45 PM
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I've always (almost) lived by the @buy it once and buy it right" mentality. I've no regrets spending more than maybe I should have, but I do have several from going cheap.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #8 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:46 PM
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I am by far, no expert, really a noob, but having been building my shop and skills the last two years, I can tell you it takes time. Time learning the skills needed, through trial and error, reading, watching videos, maybe some classes. I figure with each new project I am learning and doing new things. Hopefully getting better as I go. Plenty of mistakes and hair pulling.

It also takes some money to buy equipment and materials. I am not rich, if I was I would have went out and equipped my shop with everything I could possibly want. I have been building my shop with decent tools, mostly looking for deals on Craigslist. This is another instance where it takes time looking for and scoring the right tools. Sure I want to upgrade my table saw with an awesome cabinet saw someday, same with most of my stuff, but I set up my shop with most of what I need for around $2200. This was over a few years, buying a piece here or there. And it is still going, upgrading when I can.

Good luck.
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post #9 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:55 PM
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Buying used gets you some good deals. If you have to buy new, Grizzly makes some excellent bargains. I literally just picked up a new bandsaw from them on Friday. No one else came close to them on the price. After setting it up and putting a 1/2" blade on it I immediately was able to peel off a 1/16" thick piece of 6" wide walnut.

My tablesaw was $100 on craigslist. At some point in the future, I will be putting a $175 fence on my $100 table saw.

I've been paying for tools by making and selling things to friends/coworkers. That has increased my tool budget significantly. I bought my Dewalt 735 planer, my Grizzly bandsaw, my random orbital sander, and many other tools with that money.
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post #10 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 10:59 PM
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In my honest opinion, inexpensive tools can deliver nearly the same result as expensive ones in almost every case. What expensive tools excel at is repeatability of cuts/measurements which allows for faster work. If I had a table saw that I could be confident the rip fence was parallel to the blade when I moved it and that 8" means 8" then my work would be untold times faster. I literally can't imagine how much faster I could have stuff done if I didn't have to manually align my fence to my blade for EVERY measured cut. But it's what has to be done to get the right cut (and 100% use of test cuts).

Cheaper tools just means more work as far as I'm concerned. You pay more money to save time and make some thing less tedious.

What cheap tools make up for in price, they cost in patience and time (and ya, they might break more).
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post #11 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaleSspin View Post
Cheaper tools just means more work as far as I'm concerned. You pay more money to save time and make some thing less tedious.

What cheap tools make up for in price, they cost in patience and time (and ya, they might break more).
That's closer to what I was trying to say. Thanks for saying it better.
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post #12 of 105 Old 12-01-2013, 11:18 PM
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I'd like to preface my response by first saying that I am fairly green when it comes to woodworking. I haven't built much outside of jigs and other things that I needed but couldn't afford for my shop. I have a two year old, and am only working part time "on the clock", so I am about as poor as poor gets. Having said that, I will say that I can empathize with every single one of your frustrations. Having to purchase sub-par tools is a fact of life for the inexperienced would-be woodworker living well below the poverty line. Harbor freight has been my best friend(I know, I know) through the initial setup process, with Craigslist coming in a close second. I have learned more in the past 3 months about machinery than I did in the previous 30+ yrs of dicking around. Likewise for measuring, cutting, budgeting and anger management. I have a lot of firewood outside of my shop right now. Really nicely dimensioned firewood. Some of it is from user error, some of it from impatience, and some of it from rage. None of it can be directly attributed to shortcomings of my equipment(yet). Use free wood for as many projects as possible. Pick up broken furniture from the free section on Craigslist and fix it. Why? Because you can. Leave the press board garbage for the waste management company, but anything that is made of real wood should come home with you. If you can't fix it, break it down into it's component parts and repurpose them. Salvage all hardware(even ****ty hardware) for a rainy day. Why? Because we're really poor, remember? Make your measurements as best you can, and make them relative to one another for now, so at the time of dry fit, while everything may not be square to a machinists standards, the parts will fit together(mostly). Remember to have fun. If you're not having fun, sell your gear and find a new hobby. Do what you can with what you've got, hustle hard to get more, and better, and treasure all of the lessons that these hard times teach us. I hate to sound like a Dickens-Ian motivational speaker, but real skills and beauty tend to be forged in the fires of real adversity. Keep your head up, and keep plugging away. It'll get better. It always does.
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post #13 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 12:09 AM
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You can get good results with most any tool. It sounds to me like you are just still going through a learning curve. Watch videos and read up on how to fine (obsessively) tune each of your tools. I would also highly suggest looking into learning to work with hand tools. The accuracy is all on you then, and the tools themselves are MUCH cheaper. A sliding attachment on a bandsaw does nothing if you haven't tuned it (the saw) to perfection, gotten rid of drift, cleaned the blade, made sure it's sharp etc. Same thing with the table saw, is your blade and arbor parallel and square to the miter slots? Everything tight inside the saw? Fence parallel? Learn to tune your tools to a near obsessive level, and everything will be downhill from there. Buy or build hand tools when you cant afford machine tools, it will make you a better woodworker anyway. Get a good six inch machinist's square. Everything starts from there. You can make marking gauges, additional squares, hand planes and hand saws from there. I've been where you are, I started woodworking (as a profession) with $200. It's definitely possible. You need to worry about mastering some techniques before trying to build fine furniture. With a square and a chisel you can learn to cut dovetails. Add a good handsaw and you'll be much faster. Learn to sharpen those saws and you can pick up the three basic handsaws for $15-$50 total. You have a table saw and bandsaw already, you're way ahead of some. With handsaws, a couple of chisels and a router you could build pretty much anything. Tune and square should be your new motto if you want quality. What kind of things do you want to build?
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post #14 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 01:49 AM
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I'm retired now and enjoying my shop. Worked the DIY for 30+ years and learned quite a bit on less expensive tools... We raised 4 sons while my wife was mostly home for them so I know how to budget. One thing I did learn over the years (I know some will disagree and be my guests), cheap tools can only get you so far no matter how much patience you have.

The last 6 years of my working the job set me up for my early retirement. I knew I wanted to get serious about building fine furniture so I prepared myself. I decided I was no longer going to waste $7 per day on coffee breaks. I pocketed the daily $7 for my tool fund and added patients to the fund. I bought a modest cabinet saw (need to be patient cutting 8+/4 hardwood stock but it can be done with a 1.5 HP motor). I knew I would be sharpening my own tools with little experience - so I bought an expensive Tormek T-7 machine with all the jigs. It cost me about 7 months coffee breaks, but I now have a shop full of very sharp tools including planner and jointer knives. I even have very sharp turning skews, gouges etc. for as long as I will work the wood.

What pushed me into my position was a cheap jig saw. I was trying to fit a home built door into a stone frame basement entrance. My cheap tool kept wandering out of control and finally quit on me. I saved up some $ and bought a good quality jig saw and it did cut my wavy lines on the money. I was hooked on quality tools!

No regrets. Besides having my shop full of scary sharp tools, my kitchen knives are scary sharp. My friends and relatives have sharp tools and kitchen knives... why I was even contacted by another WWT member living in my neck of the woods and he sharpened his jointer and planner knives in my shop for no $...

I like my quality tools. They are worth the extra $ I spent on them because I now make very nice things. I haven't sold anything yet... but I'm enjoying my early retirement very much!

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #15 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Yes, I am in a learning curve and have only been doing this for 3 years, but more seriously for the last year. I want to build anything that catches my eye. Recently I sold my first table and benches to a friend of a friend - and that really was exciting. I have been watching a lot of hand tool videos as well - but I definitely prefer power tools (when they are accurate). I think you guys are right, I need to get some quality measuring tools - as well as hand tools - and need to spend more time tuning my various tools. That I can honestly say I have done before, but have not kept up with it regularly.

I still need to check that my square is square - but I think I will just buy another one, as I got that one at a garage sale and it is pretty old. Also, thank you for your words of encouragement, I am def going to stick with it. The fence on my table saw came with the table, and it does have a bit of wiggle to it. I think I will learn how I can tighten it up - or see how I can build one that is more flexible and accurate. Also, I have seen a lot of videos on various depth indicators and measuring tools that you can build - so hopefully I can use tools to build some accurate measures. If anyone has any links that you think would be helpful - i'd appreciate it.

Thanks again, and I'm gonna try again this weekend. I'll let you guys know if I come across anything that might be useful to someone else.
J
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post #16 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 10:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaleSspin View Post
In my honest opinion, inexpensive tools can deliver nearly the same result as expensive ones in almost every case. What expensive tools excel at is repeatability of cuts/measurements which allows for faster work. If I had a table saw that I could be confident the rip fence was parallel to the blade when I moved it and that 8" means 8" then my work would be untold times faster. I literally can't imagine how much faster I could have stuff done if I didn't have to manually align my fence to my blade for EVERY measured cut. But it's what has to be done to get the right cut (and 100% use of test cuts).

Cheaper tools just means more work as far as I'm concerned. You pay more money to save time and make some thing less tedious.

What cheap tools make up for in price, they cost in patience and time (and ya, they might break more).
Couldn't agree more......some excellent work can be created with junky tools......that said....its going to take twice the effort (ie measuring and test cutting) to get "perfect" results.

While we're on the "perfect" topic.....its one of my pet peeves.....there is no such thing as perfect results. There are results that are within your tolerance....Lets try it this way.....

How far is it from here to the moon??? Probably close enough in miles.....

How wide is the grand canyon.....probably close enough in feet

Width of your yard when its surveyed....an inch is probably the standard (or maybe half an inch)...

Building a house........1/8th inch is close enough for framing and rough work....

Finish work in the house....probably need to get to 1/16th inch.....

Building a work bench? Probably 1/32 or 1/64 is good enough to be considered perfect.

Building a picture frame?? 1/128 is probably what you need to get tight miters......

Now........which of these tolerances is perfect? Measuring to the moon....its not necessary to measure to 1/128th of an inch......Building a house? I hope they're not measuring in feet...
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post #17 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 11:07 PM
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Do not leave the Tormek unattended. First chance I get and it's gone. :)

Nice tool. I love super sharp too.

Al

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post #18 of 105 Old 12-02-2013, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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saw the tormek site.. so it only sharpens chisels and hand tools? no power tool blades?
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post #19 of 105 Old 12-03-2013, 12:16 AM
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IMHO one needs to decide what quality of tools you can live with.

I bought Craftsmen (or Crapsmen as I have read in some threads) table saw, band saw, joiner, drill press and stationary belt/disk sander for 50 off plus another 10% for some promo plus get another 10% off if you open up a Sears credit card. Only way I could afford the tools and they were better than nothing.
As a creature of not wanting change I still am using all but the table saw which I gave to a close friend. I have even read posts of grand kids finding my vintage tools rusted in their grandparents garage. Here is the rub. I put way too much into these tools to improve them:

Band saw I bought for $100 and added Carter guides, Rockler table, Kreg fence and quality blade. Cuts true. Yes I would love to have a monster saw I could resaw like a lumber mill.

I added an 8' Incra fence system with a Delta dust collector to the table saw. Miter guage and sled are Incra's. Blade is Forest. Yes I would love a Sawstop.

I added a Woodpecker table and a laser to the $100 drill press. It didn't have a crank to raise and lower the table so I inverted a tongue trail or jack stand to raise and lower the top. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

So it is possible to up grade cheap tools over time to a better standard than they were designed for. It's all a matter of what you can live with.

And yes I have a Tormak to sharpen my cheap Stanley and Sears chisels.

Cut it twice, measure once and it's still too short.
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post #20 of 105 Old 12-03-2013, 12:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jousley
saw the tormek site.. so it only sharpens chisels and hand tools? no power tool blades?
I has a joiner jig. What power tools are you thinking of?
I use mine for hand tools and I have cheap chisels now with a mirror finish you could shave with

Cut it twice, measure once and it's still too short.
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