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I am planning out what I aim to get for my artist studio. I am on a very tight budget, so looking at doing this slowly as I sell things, and looking at using these to make frames, stretcher bars ( a simple wooden frame ) to staple canvas/paper to, and occasionally to make boxes and other contraptions to use while painting. Some of the contraptions will be pretty involved ( as complex as an easel for example ), but I am thinking this is more for light use.

I am planning on getting a Router primarily, and a tablesaw just so I can do longer straight cuts. I have a nice Mitre saw, and a One+ circular saw and other One+ tools. I also am going to get a nicer Logan Mat cutter ( at about $150-170 ) which can be used to cut glass, mats and other materials.

I am really leaning towards the bottom of the price range, as long as it basically can be made to work. I don't want to throw my money away, so avoiding Harbor Freight, but can't really justify spending more than $150 on either item. Kind of leaning towards the lowest end ryobi table saw and router at $129 and $69. Kind of thinking the skil brand or others similar in price might be an option if it's not moving too much higher in price, but might be able to find something used. If it works marginally well and lasts a year I'll actually think it's a good purchase.

The more I think about it, the router seems like it's more important for what I am doing, it can shape complex frames with the right bits, and provide a lot of precision if mounted in a table which can mitigate shortcomings of the tablesaw. The two alternatives I am looking at are the Bosch 1617EVS 2-1/4 HP Variable-Speed Router, and the Hitachi M12VC 2-1/4-Horsepower Variable-Speed Router. Since I am doing a lot of things late at night in my garage, the quiet Hitachi sounds like its where I am leaning, but it requires me making a decent router table with a lift.

My thought is that I am going to fit this all onto a single combination table, perhaps 3' square, for doing all my cutting. I'll be putting a lot of effort into making jigs and fences to take all guesswork out of making frames, and to mitigate the fact that the ryobi tablesaw does not have a very precise fence. To give me the option of dealing with larger pieces, I want to make a similar height table to hold the mat cutter, and work as an assembly area for art pieces. The mat cutter I am looking at getting is under $200, and the real difference between it and the $450 version is a long fence which I am thinking I can just make since it's similar to what I need for the router. ( and since my main use of the garage is a studio, these can be rolled out of the way when not being used, and into the center when I am focusing on carpentry, or even out into the driveway if sawdust might ruin some artwork in the garage. )

I am thinking I can actually do the table now, before I get the tools, and attach the Ryobi One+ speed saw to it, kind of already using it as a router even though it's kind of hard to control.

The other thing I need to look at is getting a better saw blade, ( I am reading getting a smaller blade is a good idea ) and also on getting some nice chisels and wood files. Thinking of just getting some of these are harbor freight. I also need to figure out some nice clamps ( I have 2 Irwin corner clamps which work pretty well ) Eventually I am thinking I'd like to get a drill press and perhaps a band saw.
 

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You might watch craigslist for a used table saw. If it was anywhere near taken care of should last you decades. I know you said you were avoiding HF but I have two of their fixed base routers and a plunge router and they work as well as any router I've ever used.
 

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I second the craigslist option. My neighbor just got a Delta 2hp contractor saw w/ fence for $100.00. The table had a little surface rust, but we cleaned that up in an hour & the top looks almost brand new & functions 100% proper. Pawn shops depending on your location, can also be a big win.
 

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Just to illustrate the main purpose for the tools.

I am making what most think of when you see a canvas, but I am actually not using it for acrylics and oils, but rather for watercolor. I can just buy stretcher bars, but each bar is about $1-2, so it easily adds $4 to the cost of a picture.

These are a simple frame in essence, so I've just been buying hardwood 1/4 inch square dowels, cutting them at 16 and 19.25, then gluing them so they end up being a 16x20 frame. To give it a little more support, I take my One+ speedsaw and do a 1/8" diagonal grove and drop in a 1/8" square dowel.

Then the hard part, I file down all the edges so they are smooth so nothing will tear the paper. I also file down the inside edge so the stretched material only actually touches the outer edge, if I don't it will leave a line on the picture where the inner edge of the frame is.

One step which I have not yet started is coating this with gesso ( acrylic paint ) or other material to keep the acidic wood away from the acid from the acid free paper.

Then I take the paper, cut it to 1" larger than the frame, soak it for about 5 minutes until it goes flat again, ( it's actually mostly cotton fiber ) which makes it expand in size. Then I do whats called a gallery wrap, where i carefully fold it over the frame. This is the part I am still perfecting as the 1/4" dowels are too small for staples so I've been clamping the paper with a bit of glue to the frame, thinking I will get 1/4" staples and make a bit thicker dowels. Glue is kind of bad as tends to not stay where I put it on the back.

Then I let it dry, and the paper tightens on the frame until it ends up being as tight as a drum. Very nice surface to work on. If I get it very wet, it still stays flat. After I finish painting it, I use Krylon workable fixatif, and Krylon UV Archival Varnish Matte, both of which can be removed if being restored. It ends up being much more like an oil painting.

Normally a good sheet of 140# watercolor paper runs about $6 a sheet. By doing this I am looking at getting #90 paper ( much thinner ) which runs about half as much when you buy it in a roll which is 44"x10 yards. That lets me do 40 pictures from a roll, which at $100 is about $2 a picture. Add in the fact I don't need glass, nor a mat, and it's hangable as is without a frame, it allows me to present each piece professionally with very little overhead.

I am thinking I can make dowels slightly larger than 1/4" which would let me use staples, and that the wood will be less than a few dollars for each 16x20 piece since i could use larger pieces. I can also do facing at an angle so I don't have to file it down each one, which can be done via the router or the table saw. I'd also like to perfect the appearance, perhaps even using a wood burning kit to sign the back ( thus proving it's more authentic ) and get this so it looks like quality craftsmanship to collectors. How I am doing this is already pretty unique ( even though none of these ideas are new, just don't know of any artists doing all of these at the same time )

I am aiming to do a standard size, initially at 16x20 but planning on doing larger pieces later. So want to make devices which make it easy to assemble these ( mounting the clamps, and perhaps some way of clamping the wet paper to the frame so glue could be more effective ). I am finding any imperfections to it's being perfectly square, or bumps in the frame, end up as obvious wrinkles on the paper.

I attached an example of this idea, actually I connected 2 of these on a hinge to make a diptych, and an example of a recent painting.
 

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You might watch craigslist for a used table saw. If it was anywhere near taken care of should last you decades. I know you said you were avoiding HF but I have two of their fixed base routers and a plunge router and they work as well as any router I've ever used.
I second the craigslist option. My neighbor just got a Delta 2hp contractor saw w/ fence for $100.00. The table had a little surface rust, but we cleaned that up in an hour & the top looks almost brand new & functions 100% proper. Pawn shops depending on your location, can also be a big win.
Thanks, I'll definitely keep an eye on craigslist, and check out pawn shops. Also might focus on some of the places that do refurbished tools. Probably going to be a few months before I can get anything, so I need to learn the various tools so I can understand what I am buying.

I am kind of scared by HF comments about their tools not even working to begin with. The comment that their external powerswitch that gives you variable speed doesn't work unless you open it up and resolder it kind of makes me concerned. I am very happy with my One+ tools and how easy it is to return things to Home Depot.
 

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i'm all about inexpensive. i have 2 of the low end ryobi routers, the fixed base 1/4" and the 1/2" plunge.

for me as a weekend hobbyist, they do what i want. for a more serious woodworker, i'm they leave a good bit to be desired.

my table say is probably one of the most low end ones out there ... a 10+ year old Skil 3400. all i do with it is rip stuff, and it is fine for that.

there is my $.02.
 

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I have the HF 2hp fixed base router in a table, been there for over two years, I'll put it up against my PC690 any day. You have to keep in mind that reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. The biggest percentage of people writing a review don't or have never had the item, they just go from website to website making up stories. I agree that a used table saw would work if in good shape. As far as the external speed control, never heard of having to "open it up to solder" , I have five of these and never had a problem.
 

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I have quite a few HF tools and most of them have lasted for many years. The few that were bad to begin with or broke down shortly after buying them the store took back and gave me a full refund without any hassle. All of the tools I have worn out I more than got my moneys worth.
 

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There are a lot of Craigslist/table saw threads on here with people asking whether it's a good deal or not. Cull through those and keep monitoring them and you'll quickly learn what good table saw pricing is. I wouldn't be afraid of the HF router but that's also something you can keep an eye out for on Craigslist.
If you buy right, you can always sell it for similar or sometimes more $$ so you're never really at any risk.
 
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