Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Eastern Kentucky
I did a lot of reading here but also some skimming so I might have missed it if anyone said it. Get yourself an extra combination square just for the steel ruler on it only. The Swanson at Lowe's with the plastic slide piece for $10 is fine. Take the slide part off of it and keep the metal ruler itself handy. I use this to set my table saw fence square to the blade. I use it for laying out dead accurate lines on work pieces, both as a straight edge and also to make marks a set distance apart from each other. You'll find it's weight to be handy as it resists easily being bumped and therefore moving when you don't want it to. You can hold it down with 4 fingers spread across it and mark along side it with a pencil or carefully score with a marking knife also (can't do that with a tape). Beats a tape measure any day for laying out marks and setting my saw fence, but the widest cut I can make on the saw using the ruler to set it is just 12 inches. Mostly I work with solid wood instead of plywood so it's fine for me. I actually made a rip and cross cut jig from MDF for cutting plywood so I use a circular saw there and never the table saw. I figure anything over 18 inches will be too hard to run on my small saw so I just make all plywood cuts with the circular instead. Therefore a 12 inch steel ruler works for my saw and no more is ever needed. But they do have a 16 inch model also if a few extra inches would help.
In my shop I'm constantly reaching for the 12 inch steel ruler. I can't even think of all the uses I've found for it right now but there are many ways to use it. Anywhere where dead nuts accuracy is needed I will use the steel ruler if I can. Mine is marked with 1/16 and 1/32 marks on one side, and 1/16 and metric millimeters on the reverse side. It is imperative that any steel ruler you get for this begins the measurements at the very end of the ruler, not inwards from the end, or it won't work for just butting the ruler up next to anything (table saw fence?) and measuring outwards from there. That's one tip.
My other tip is, Craftsman tools are not junk. Not everything they make is good though. If it feels cheaply made or less than solid then I pass. But I have a lot of Craftsman that is very well made. It's an affordable alternative to higher priced tools. Their routers are solid pieces of equipment. I have several. If anyone says otherwise they're talking out the wrong end. Value is an understatement. When I was looking for a solid router and considering all the options, I chose a Craftsman not because of price but because of how much more tool I seemed to be getting for the same money as others. Mine has both 1/4 and 1/2 inch collets, built in work lights (I'll never own a router again that doesn't have this), edge guide tool, two bases, one plunge, one fixed, and was just very solidly made. Their cordless drills are good also, get the higher voltage ones with lithium batteries, you'll never regret it. Tons of power, light weight, battery life lasts and lasts, and one handed chuck tightening and release. Their circular saws are solid also, get one that draws at least 12 amps or more though, and put a thin kerf blade on it, like a $12 Freud Diablo. I put a 24 tooth Freud Diablo ripping blade on mine and that thing will crosscut smoother than a 40 tooth full kerf miter saw blade. It's a super cheap upgrade to an already powerful circular saw. Mine draws 13 amps but that blade makes it cut like it's pulling twice that. With a smooth, powerful, sharp blade, cutting nice straight cuts with a freehand saw against a ripping jig is easily achieved, even long cuts full length of a sheet of plywood. I also have a bench top Craftsman drill press. Very nice machine. Easy to use. I bought it because I got a 6 amp motor with it where other similar machines have 3 amp motors. Strong motors make smoother cuts since they don't bog down in hard wood. Still takes sharp bits and blades though.
Basically, Craftsman tools deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Watch the Christmas and Father's Day sales and you can get some awesome deals. Even sales through the year, like Craftsman Club sales. I normally never pay more than $70 to $100 for the portable power tools I've bought. My drill press was $130. Another brand to watch is Kobalt from Lowe's. They're starting to produce some very nice tools for a budget minded person wanting accuracy. I will say I paid a LOT for my Kobalt miter saw and stand. I bought the 12" model and paid full price when it first came out (the 10" and 7 1/4" models leave a lot to desire). Now it's about $100 cheaper for the saw only, and unless you need it mobile you don't have to get the matching stand (ooh, but it's so niiiiice). In all I paid about $550 at the time for the saw and stand. Now the same setup is about $450 roughly, but I don't regret it. It was the largest purchase I've made to date. This saw cuts every way imaginable for a miter saw to do. Deadly accurate also. Repeatable cuts, and smoooooth. I will say it is in every way equal to the $600 DeWalt at much less cost. Sorry, I'm rambling. A $300 saw is a lot compared to $100 portable tools. I decided to splurge on that one since it would do soooo much stuff that I use several other tools to do the same thing, like stopped depth dado cuts for example. Made life simple, and also I'm a contractor so I use it on jobs also, hence the mobile stand. Even though I paid more for it than it can be bought for now, and even though it's still $300, I still consider this saw budget priced since I do feel it directly compares to the big yellow $600 saw at much less money.
Another tip. Go to an art supply store like Hobby Lobby and get some 6H lead pencils. The harder the lead, the finer the lines they will draw. You want hair thin lines for cutting on. Standard No. 2 pencils just don't work well. 6H pencils make drawn lines that look more like a razor score in the wood. When you follow a tiny line like this, your accuracy increases a lot just due to not having fat lines to aim at. This can add back as much as 1/16 inch width that would normally be lost when marking fat lines and then cutting them.
One more tip. Don't try to depend on lasers on tools for accuracy. Align blade to pencil marks for dead accurate cuts. Tried and true methods, they still work today. Make a habit of it and it won't feel like extra work. I fiddled with lasers long enough to realize even when they're aligned they don't stay aligned. If I'm going to the trouble to mark the wood where I want it cut then I'm going to make sure the blade hits the mark.
Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 12-05-2013 at 02:26 AM.